The compensation package for a Manhattan church pastor is causing quite a stir. Riverside Church is paying its new pastor, the Rev. Brad Braxton, a reported $600,000 when he takes the pulpit Sunday. He was approved by the congregation of the church last fall.
The compensation plan, according to the New York Post, includes an annual salary of $250,000, an $11,500 monthly housing allowance, private school tuition, a full-time maid, pension benefits and other allowances. The package is twice the amount paid to his predecessor.
The pay package has divided the congregation of the 1,500-member church and has even prompted a lawsuit from some church members.
Results from a poll on the New York Post Web site show that 9 out of 10 people feel the pay package is excessive.
According to Salary.com, the median pay for a pastor in the U.S. is $84,426 with the cost of salary and benefits topping $112,000 so that put Braxton’s pay at some five times the norm.
Taking college sports as one example, there will always be escalation of pay packages for the very top-tier coaches. With each new top-level hire, there are record compensation packages. I imagine that there is some degree of competition for top talent in the pulpit, too. However, when pay packages cause churches to divide, it’s probably a good time to step back and take a reality check.
We all have different earning abilities. Our talents and abilities are God-given and in recognizing that, we should acknowledge God in and with everything we do. We should look at a high wage-earning pastor the same way we would a successful Christian entrepreneur. It has more to do with what you do with what you are given than how much you are given. I look at Rick Warren’s success as an author. When he struck gold with “Purpose-Driven Life”, he didn’t keep all the profits for himself. Instead he reinvested them in God’s work.
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This is not the time for any high ranking executive to strive for a top-tier salary, regardless of the record of the hired party or the financial health of the hiring institution. This holds especially true for ministers and churches. While Riverside Church is one of Americaâ€™s most prominent congregations and New York City one of our most expensive metropolises, the compensation for the new minister must not create distraction and division. If the living allowance is the stumbling block, then find another arrangement. Perhaps a permanent rectory via a donated property or conversion of some of Riversideâ€™s facility into a suitable residence (the primary tower, designed with the appearance of a gothic cathedral, is actually a 22-story office building). Bill Clinton made a statement when Congress balked at his budget for office space when he left the White House. His answer: he took space in Harlem, reducing expenditures and scoring a PR coup. An unexpected solution to the new ministerâ€™s housing could perform a similar double task of saving money and bringing praise to the Rev. Braxton and Riverside Church.