Should Pastors Be Paid? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Should pastors be paid?  Should they be required to work to support themselves?  What does the Bible say about whether a pastor should be paid or not?

Bi-Vocational Pastors

Sadly, the two lowest paying professions for those who hold Bachelor Degrees or higher, are for teachers and pastors.  Does it seem that society in general doesn’t esteem them as highly or ascribe much worth to them based upon the amount that they are paid but are there two more important vocations in society?  I’ll let you answer that.  Teachers and pastors obviously do not enter their profession for the money.  Many pastors have to work to support themselves and many teachers have to work in the summer to do the same thing.  Amazingly, almost 42% of pastors are bi-vocational and nearly the same number of teachers have to work in the summer because their salary is not enough to support them year round.  For pastors, this means that they must work to support themselves and pastor the church.  This is nothing short of having two jobs and when you consider that many pastors are often continuing their education, you can see why the average pastor lasts only 3 years at any one church.

Hazards of the Pastorate

The Fuller Institute had some pretty shocking statistics about pastors in 2005.  The results are as follows:

  • Seventy one percent report fatigue and burn out daily and/or weekly
  • Eighty percent of pastors reported feelings of wanting to leave the ministry at least one time
  • Seventy seven percent of pastors reported friction in their marriages and as a result, 38% of pastors were divorced or in the process of one (almost 4 in 10!)
  • Pastors reported that 78% of church members regularly did not attend Sunday school or Bible studies (primarily Wednesday nights or Sunday nights)

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry every month in the U.S.

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry every month in the U.S.

Pastor Disasters

  • Fifty eight percent of all pastors’ marriages will end in divorce
  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry every month in the U.S.
  • Eighty percent feel unqualified
  • Seventy eight percent feel their seminary did a poor job in educating them
  • The saddest statistic of all is that 8 in 10 pastors will leave the profession after 10 years and the average stay for a pastor at one church is 3 years.

A Laborer is Worthy of His Wages

There are dozens of references in the Old Testament that show the Levitical Priesthood were paid out of the tithes and that this was their primary means of making a living since they were not allowed to own property and so we won’t cover these verses.  We will restrict our Scriptures about whether a pastor or elder, which he is sometimes called, should be paid or not.  First Timothy 5:17-18 is where Paul tells Timothy to, Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, The laborer deserves his wages. Where Paul says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” is an Old Testament Law of mercy where animals that labored deserved to eat and so the same principle was felt important for elders or pastors.  Every elder is a teacher and every pastor is technically an elder and so the term elder can be used interchangeably with the word pastor.

Paul’s Admonition for Pastors Being Paid

Perhaps the greatest exposition on whether pastors, which are sometimes called teachers, should be paid or not is in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14:

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?  If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?  Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same?  For it is written in the Law of Moses, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?  Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written) for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.  Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?  In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.


It seems obvious that pastors should be paid but some churches are so small and membership is so poor that a full time salary is hard to come by.  Some of the fault may lay with members who do not give any money or so little that what is given must be used to keep the doors of the church open.  It seems obvious from the New Testament that pastors should be paid for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9,do we not have the right to eat and drink?” (v 4), “or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?”(v 6) because “who serves as a soldier at his own expense?” (v 7). “Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?” (v 8.9), and if pastors have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?  If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?” (v 11, 12) because “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (v 14). That should settle this issue.  A laborer is worthy if his wages and you shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain.  If they were commanded to be this merciful to laborers and to the beasts in the field, should we do any less for our pastors?

Have you prayed for your pastor(s) today? Here are some prayers that you might consider:

6 Prayers for Pastors or Leaders

Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Derek Hill July 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Jack, this was an excellent article. Every single pastor needs to be paid. How did humanity get to the place of thinking that it didn’t matter about a pastor’s means of currency is beyond me. My heart goes out to all of the pastors out there living for Christ and making next to nothing, if anything at all from their duties in the church. I know what you are going through brother, and I am in prayer for you. Blessings on you friend. God is with you always!


Jack Wellman July 20, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Thank you Derek. Sadly, the two lowest paid positions for those with degrees are teachers and last, pastors. But they will get their rewards in heaven. Thanks for your encouragement brother.


Erik July 21, 2013 at 8:01 am

Excellent article sir on so many levels. And, yes, I totally agree with Derek’s comments.


Jack Wellman July 21, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Thank you Erik for your kind words. Ultimately, we all work for eternal rewards but even so, a laborer is worthy of his wages. I am glad you came and commented my friend.


darrell creswell July 21, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Very nice Jack – Well done – Blessings Darrell


Jack Wellman July 22, 2013 at 6:52 am

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement sir. I believe that you are a pastor, from what I understand and so it means much to me to hear from you sir. May God richly bless your labor of love in the Lord for His glory.


Jose July 22, 2013 at 12:06 am


Is there any way to know how he should get paid? What’s fair and unfair?


Jack Wellman July 22, 2013 at 6:50 am

Hello Jose. Thank you sir for your question. I am not sure what you mean by “how should he get paid?” I believe by a salary of some sort and what is fair depends upon how big or small the church is I suppose and if he is a bi-vocational or working pastor or not.


Henry Temba July 22, 2013 at 4:26 am

Pastors should be paid


Jack Wellman July 22, 2013 at 6:51 am

Thank you Henry for your comment. I appreciate your encouragement.


Rebecca July 24, 2013 at 8:55 am

Pastors must get paid. According to the word of God those who service in the Temple must eat from the temple. God bless you man of God


Charito Rustia July 27, 2013 at 5:42 am

Hello pastor Jack you have done a clear explanation and point of view to the readers and church members, make understandable to their labors. How about a pastor who is working full time in company and receiving from church more than his company wages. Did this means he received already his rewards?

Thanks and God Bless.


Jack Wellman July 27, 2013 at 10:40 am

Hello Charito. That is a great question. I am a bi-vocational pastor like the one you mentioned but I receive only a small compensation but I can not answer your question unless I know for one thing: Is this pastor working because he doesn’t receive enough from the church? How much does he receive from the church? Truly we all are working for a reward from Jesus Himself ultimately for all in this world we have, we can bring nothing and all will be burned up at Christ’s return.


Joel August 12, 2013 at 6:30 am

I believe so. Pastors are God’s field workers. How this faithful servants of God go on in the field and continue to serve if they have nothing to eat.
Pastors must be blessed for they deserve of it!


Bj Farnsworth August 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I guess my problem is how does one tell somebody, who believes pastors should not be paid, this person feels he is called by God, has a house church, which he is pastor; he may be off base .He firmly believes God has called his family to not expect to ever have anything and yet we as other believers are those who are wrong.
As the daughter of a pastor and wife of a minister this really doesn’t set well. Thank you for your thoughts about this touchy subject.


Jack Wellman August 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Thank you my friend. This man has a house church so he doesn’t need the same type of support does he as one who is full time or like me, I am bi-vocational and have to work to support myself. Does he disagree with Scriptures? If he does, then I would worry about this man being truly called by God and even if he is, does he normally like to disagree with the Bible and the Bible is crystal clear on this subject (i.e. 1 Cor 9, 1 Tim 5, etc.).

I would never, ever put what “someone believes” over what the Bible says. No contest. You likely can not change his mind but myself, I would be worried if he puts what he “believes” over what the Bible says, how many other errors may he be subject too? I would not be comfortable going against even ONE teaching that the Bible is absolutely clear one, would you? Even so, you won’t get far with him I feel.

I would not personally attend there myself. Something about this does not feel right. It flies in the face of 2,000 years of church history and clear Bible teaching…yet he is willing to put what he “believes” over all of this. Has he had seminary training? Just curious.


Bruce October 16, 2013 at 12:09 am

Mr. Wellman I wanted to chime in on this topic as well. I agree with your interpretation and feel that pastors defiantly deserve to be compensated for the time they spend doing the lords work. For the most part I don’t think the money gets abused but there are always stories of people taking advantage of the tithes people offer up to God. Those people will get their reward. If you know what I mean.
Even though pastors are justified in being compensated for the good work they do, should that be the norm in the Lords Church or could that money be better spent elsewhere to help move the work forward maybe even at a faster pace?

The Mormon church has around 30,000 congregations around the world. Members of those congregations could be asked at any time to serve in a variety of leadership positions. Most adult members of those congregations will always be in some sort of calling or position in which they serve for 1-4 years including… Bishop, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, scout masters, men’s and women’s group leaders, music directors, councillor’s, committee members, etc. Most callings don’t take a lot of time, maybe a few hours a week but some like the Bishop and his councillors, elders quorum leader, relief society president could require 10+ hours in a week. All of these positions are held on a volunteer basis. Members do not have to accept a calling if they don’t want to however most accept and serve faithfully. If everyone does a little a lot gets done. I am currently the 17 year old Sunday school teacher and I love it. Maybe your church does this but allow your members the opportunity to serve in the church. How much does one gain by just sitting in the pew and listening to a sermon once a week. Not much. Their commitment to Christ will strengthen 10 times greater when they are engaged in the service of the lord.

There are some positions outside of our congregations who receive wages for the work they do. Our youth attending high school, attend seminary classes every day often before school. Some of their teachers are in a fulltime paid position. Our young single adults also have seminary institute classes where their teachers are paid. Our Church also has a vast welfare program to help care for the poor and needy which owns a number of farms, ranches, orchards, food processing, and distribution facilities. Although there are many volunteers in those entities, there are some who receive salary for the work they do.

Our members are asked to tithe 10% of there increase. 30,000 congregations, 15,000,000 members. Surly we could afford to pay our clergy but we don’t. Because we have a lay clergy we are able to do many things that other churches cant because of their financial limitations. We have the largest women’s organization in the world, the relief society which provides countless hours of service and aid to many. As I mentioned before our welfare and disaster assistance programs provide relief to many in need all over the world. 100,000 proselytizing and service missionaries around the world. They pay much of their living expenses but require more for logistical support. We also have a few universities which get some financial support from church. Perpetual education fund which provides financial assistance to those in developing countries to gain an education. We have 140 temples throughout the world which we dedicate as the house of the Lord where we perform sacred ordinances for the living and those who have passed before us like baptism. I do not say these things to boast, only to show the way the Lord has directed us to carry out his work. May God richly bless you and your congregation Jack as you go forward with faith.


DocReits December 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Hey Bruce,

I commend the Mormon church for their organizational management and their holistic approach to the “bee hive” theory , where everyone participates to the collective.

There are other religions that do likewise to a somewhat different and lesser extent such as the Jehovah’s Witness religion. They are to be commended for their zeal in witnessing to what they believe to be the truth although their motive for witnessing is in “self” salvation. That is, it is a works based salvation.

Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindi communities take care of each other in a similar collective model, although granted, the Mormon’s trump all of these in their organizational management.

My heart goes out to you, at especially only 17 years old, because I understand your zeal in desiring the “best mode of life” in serving your community and world, as do so many in the Mormon church.

I think you sense where I am heading with this message to you. Mainline evangelical Christianity has at our center the person of Jesus Christ. It always has. Jesus, when made man as a human through the virgin Mary, was God Himself. The Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary. It was God Himself who died at Calvary. It had to be this way because the Law required a perfect, sinless sacrifice to atone for your and mine and everyone’s sin.

The Mormon’s doctrine is 180 degrees opposite to this fundamental truth of the Christian faith. They believe that God the Father in human form had relations with Mary, by which she conceived Jesus, that Lucifer was Jesus’s brother and that Jesus was not God Himself, reconciling the world to Himself through His own death on the Cross and His subsequent bodily Resurrection as God. Christians believe in the Trinity, Mormon’s do not.

So I liken this applauded organizational model of the Mormon church, as building a great house, but building it on a sandy foundation. The foundation of the church has always and will always be on Christ as the Cornerstone of the building. We must understand “who” Christ is. Examine deeper your church’s teaching of who Jesus is.

Ask yourself this important question. Where have my main teachings come from to establish the understanding of what I believe? Then ask, where have the teachings come from to establish the beliefs of my church? All believers should do this, not just Mormons.

The entire belief system of the Mormon church has come from one man… the writings of Joseph Smith. The whole Mormon religion is based on the testimony of “One man”. Many other religions are the same.

Muslims base their beliefs on the testimony of “One man”, their prophet Mohammed. The Koran is the writing of “One Man”. The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, which the Mormon church’s foundation is built upon, are the writings of “One man”, going back to only 1830.

The Bible, as the revelation of Jesus Christ, has 66 books written by over 40 authors going back to the time of creation. Each book is a prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus Christ. They were foretelling the coming of Emmanuel who was Jesus, “God” with us. The early New Testament writers understood who this Jesus was…God Himself.

Christians believe that the Logos was God…Logos being the Word of God…and that the Logos became flesh, that is… Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus is God(Jn 1:14). Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindii, Jehovah Witness, do not believe this.

Please consider these things. My prayers are for, not against you.




Mark Sproles December 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

Thank you ever so much for your kind words. I believe you misunderstood my remarks. I teach 17 year olds in a sunday school class I am not 17 lol! None the less thanks for your remarks. Doc you seem to be a very reasonable and knowledgeable person so can we have an honest truthful discussion about some of your comments. All of our core beliefs especially about Jesus Christ are found in the Bible. The definition of the Trinity and our definition of the Godhead are exactly the same. They all have the same qualities and attributes. Jesus Christ is the Saviour and redeemer of the world. The only difference is that the Trinity sees them as three personages and one being and we see them as having three separate and distinct beings. We base this interpretation from the many accounts that exist in the Bible of them being described as separate distinct beings. I am not out to prove anyone wrong, only to gain understanding. My question to you is why do you portray this belief in such an evil distorted manner when it is the same God we worship and go to for our salvation?
Merry Christmas


Michael A. Bowie August 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

You can never paid a minister enough but you should at least try.


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