Social Justice Will Elude The Church Until . . . .

While today’s discussions are about social justice on the macro level, it will continue to allude to ministries and the local church as long as they cannot even get it right on the mico level.

It is like talking about life and death issues — abortion / the death penalty / euthanasia / gun violence — while at the same time having little-to-no interest in even giving blood to help after an attack on an Orlando nightclub or the Uvalde, Texas schoolhouse.

On the micro level, many ministries financially use and abuse their faculty and/or staff. Typically, the salary and benefits are reviewed and revised upward, principally when it involves the top administrators, leadership, and/or pastors. While some may cite the underpaid outliers as being typical, “poor and humble” is not the norm for those in Christian administration or pastoral ministry today.

However, “poor and humble” is the norm for many who are also in ministry as support staff or faculty. 

  • Deals are struck with new employees based on their marital status.
  • Disparate salary and benefits are finagled and negotiated without any standards of differentiation or equitable established pay scales.
  • Secrecy is demanded when it comes to an individual’s contract — else, you are sowing discord and/or engaging in gossip.
  • Some are working over 40 hours for the same employer, at different jobs, which is believed to be allowed and legal under state hour and wage regulations.
  • Men are being paid differently than women.
  • Dubious paid positions are created for administrators, pastoral wives, and children.
  • Reports are broad-brushed when it comes to knowing who is being paid what.
  • Benefits widely and wildly vary between those who are the elite and the underlings. 

. . . . And some believe that ministries and local churches are serious when it comes to issues of social justice!

As with rising costs in our economy, the ones feeling it the strongest are those on the bottom. Likewise, in ministry, those who need health insurance, co-pay consideration, dental, life, extended disability, Aflac, eyeglass, and sick pay the most are those at the bottom. However, they are the ones who are denied or ignored when it comes to such salaries and/or benefits!

When those on the bottom get hit with these various costs, they feel it the most acutely. They are already struggling to make it on their salary and have little discretionary monies. They are already near the seabed and have little-to-no room for any more movement downward! 

Ask a pastor, making $50,000 – $100,000 to cover a co-pay of $5,000. That is 10%-2% of their yearly salary — if we only look at actual salary compensation (and not including housing / utilities / car reimbursement / spending accounts )! 

For many Christian school teachers and/or full-time staff, it is approaching 15-20% of their salary.

I have no “dog in the fight.” But I did fight this battle for 36 years in ministry — and “won” it while I was there!

The pastoral staff was not above the faculty and staff of the church and school. If there is no health insurance for the teachers, then none for the pastors — and all should be on the same program. As full-time employees, we received health, life, Aflac, dental, extended disability, co-pay reimbursement, eyeglass coverage, and sick days as did all other full-time employees on staff or faculty. No pay raises for us if there were no pay raises for others — and no game playing as to what a meaningful pay raise was for others!

I fought against having the pastoral co-pays covered. The insurance costs were outrageous — around $15,000 -$20,000 per family — and still rising (I believe it is approaching $30,000/family today)! 

“No — we are not going to cover the co-pays as well the cost of health insurance!” I fought hard for co-pays not to be covered! That was the only battle I lost — and regretfully lost. The deacons refused to implement such a policy! I said, “Let’s bring it to the church and see if they agree with this policy.” I had no doubt that the membership would agree with my position or at least provide that same benefit for the faculty and staff.

I say — “Regretfully lost” because I know how it works and how things take place in ministry! Believe me, I understand the dynamics that operate in a local church ministry! That coverage just gets lost and blurred when it comes to the benefits provided to those on the top, but it is a brutal reality for those on the bottom! 

While we did pretty well regarding fairness, equity, and justice in compensation and benefits, let me assure you that it is not so with many ministries and local churches.

“Social justice” is just a talking point preached from the pulpit, not from the bookkeepers. With far too many, a lack of fairness, equity, and justice are sorely missing! I understand the dynamics that are at play and how it is explained away! Far too many games are played when it comes to caring, compassion, helping, concern, or financial decency and fairness!

If the truth were known to the members, they would be outraged over how poorly those on the bottom are mishandled and abused! They just do not know, and/or the facts of the situation are covered and blurred!  

Sorry — I don’t hold out much hope for those who want to bring a child into the world, who want to walk away from an abortion, and think they will find much real tangible help and hope from the elite in the local church. Many have yet to show they can handle what they have been given — Luke 16:11.

 

 

 

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