Five Personal Money Rules for Pastors
My husband, who works as a senior pastor, drove a Land Rover for years.
He only stopped driving it because it was totaled in a wreck, and not a week goes by that he doesn’t say, “Man, I miss my Land Rover.”
Now, this Land Rover was 12 years old and not a Range Rover, but my husband loved it.
It was a 2001 Land Rover Discovery II for you people that know things about cars.
He would save up money from side jobs to make improvements, but it was still a 12-year-old vehicle he bought for under $3000.00.
But you better believe that people at our church talked.
“I wish I could afford a Land Rover.”
“We must be paying this guy too much money if he’s driving a Land Rover.”
“Our church has never had a pastor who drove such a fancy vehicle.”
And while they were all totally wrong – they could afford a $2,900 vehicle, they weren’t paying my husband too much money, and the last pastor drove a very nice, much newer Jeep Wrangler – this was nothing new to us.
People talk about the way that pastors spend their money.
And your initial reaction may be to push back and say, “Our money is none of their business.”
And while you’re technically right, you’re also wrong.
Let me explain.
There’s nothing specific in the Bible saying that church leaders have to be transparent with all of their financial decisions.
But the Bible does make it pretty clear that people in leadership positions in churches will be judged more strictly.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1
And it makes sense.
Your husband has accepted a job to lead people to be more like Christ.
It’s all well and good to preach amazing sermons on Sunday mornings, but you also have to live a life that is an example.
And the Bible talks about money over 800 times, so we know it’s important.
It only makes sense that people want to see how their pastors are spending money.
And if we’re being honest, some of those people are just being nosey and nothing you buy will ever be good enough/cheap enough/ smart enough to satisfy them.
“Did you know that the pastor’s wife bought two boxes of Cheerios on Tuesday?? Toasted O’s were always good enough for my kids!”
But for the majority of your church, they look at the way your family spends money as an example for themselves.
And for the vast majority of ministry families, we are good stewards of our money.
We follow Biblical principals in the way we handle our finances.
We have a good balance of frugality and generosity.
Our checkbooks reflect our hearts pretty well.
The problem is that people don’t see the whole picture of our finances.
They see my husband roll up in a Land Rover, and all they know about Land Rovers is that they are very expensive cars. They don’t know that if you are willing to drive one that’s a dozen years old, they cost less than a used Kia.
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So how can we set a good example with our money and still maintain some privacy and dignity in our finances?
By following these five personal money rules for pastors.
1. Have a Side Hustle
Having a side hustle is just always a good idea.
It helps bring in extra money for debt retirement, to build savings, vacations, etc.
Last year my husband invested $4,000 in Apple stock options that turned in to $17,000.
We are currently working on our 10th flip house.
Everyone at our church knows that we do these things.
So when we go on a trip to Bermuda using the money made from a good stock investment, no one thinks the church should cut my husband’s salary.
Another good reason to have a side hustle is that sometimes things go south in churches.
I hope that never happens to you, but there are stories galore of pastor’s who were suddenly fired and had no other money to fall back on. The hole their family ended up in after that experience took years to dig out of.
Paul made tents.
Jesus was a carpenter.
Get a side hustle.
2. Know Your Worth
What do pastors with equal education and experience at equal size churches make?
There are websites to figure out the specifics for your denomination, but it is important to know your worth.
When my husband first graduated from seminary, he worked as a bi-vocational pastor at a tiny church and made a very small salary. That made sense.
He now has 17 years of experience in vocational ministry and is the senior pastor at a larger church.
He (and our side hustles) make enough for me to stay home with our four precious kids.
Being a stay-at-home-mom was the desire of my heart for years before God made our finances work out so that it was possible.
If you discover that your husband is being underpaid, he has a couple of options.
The first option is to go to the church and talk to them.
Bring the documentation to support your claim. Show what other pastors with equal education and experience in equal sized churches are making.
Often times, churches just don’t know.
They’ve hired your husband and he’s doing a great job, so they’ve got no reason to research pay for pastors.
Once your husband shows them that he is being underpaid, your church will hopefully work to get his salary closer to what’s average.
If your husband goes to the church, and they can’t/won’t adjust the budget to make his compensation what it should be, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new church.
Yes, your husband accepted a calling to ministry, but it is also a job.
It’s okay to get paid what you’re worth for doing a good job.
My husband had a professor at seminary say, “Jesus is everywhere. Go where the money is.”
3. Have Some Transparency
As far as your husband’s compensation, if your church is anything like my church, there’s a ton of transparency.
Every month at church conference (business meeting) the budget is passed out to the entire church with every single staff member’s salary broken down line by line.
Anyone who wants to know what my husband makes can easily find out.
But we do our best to be transparent about our purchases, too.
When we are saving for a big purchase, we tell people.
We go to the beach every year, and we let everyone know that our eBay side hustle funds our vacation.
And here’s what’s awesome about that.
We’ve helped several families get started selling things on eBay. They’ve been able to use their extra money to pay off debt or go on vacations or save for a down payment for a house.
We’ve had friends who have watched us take the worst house on the block and slowly renovate it until we could sell it for a profit. That has given them the confidence to do the same thing and completely change their family’s financial situation.
And none of that would have happened if we hadn’t been open about how we handle our finances.
Now I almost didn’t put this in here because you shouldn’t need to be told to tithe, but I’d hate to skip it and it hurt your ministry.
God said to tithe so do it.
A compelling argument, huh?
I once had a friend ask me why we tithed since my husband was the pastor. She said it seemed like we just put money in the offering plate on Sunday to have it given back to us on Friday.
That’s not how that works (at least not in our church).
So I just referred her back to my theologically sound argument – God said to tithe so we do it.
But the real kicker here is that you may need to change the way you give your tithe money.
It’s great if you (or your husband) bring your tithe check in on Monday morning and give it directly to the secretary to deposit that afternoon.
Now the secretary knows your family tithes.
But remember, your money decisions are being watched.
So it might be of great benefit to you and those watching you if you gave your tithe in an envelope every Sunday.
Or every other Sunday.
Or once a month.
Or whatever the frequency that you normally tithe.
Remember in math class when you had to show your work even if you were a mental math whiz?
It’s a lot like that.
People want to see their pastors doing the thing they preach about.
Giving your money online or directly to the secretary still gets the money where it should go and it’s still obeying God and it’s still good for your heart.
I get that.
But putting the money in the offering plate as it goes by gives your congregation a chance to see you doing what you expect them to do.
You are modeling the behavior you want them to have.
5. Don’t Be Materialistic
A lot of you are probably laughing right now because you think with your husband’s salary there’s no way you could be materialistic.
And maybe that’s true.
But for a lot of us, if we think really hard, there are some things we are a bit materialistic about.
Granted, your husband probably doesn’t wear $4,000 sneakers like John Gray, but there may be some things that you should look a little closer at.
And I get it.
The very definition of materialism flies in the face of ministry.
Dictionary.com defines materialism as “a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.”
Okay, obviously you’ve surrendered your life to ministry because your spiritual values are the most important thing to you.
But if you really examine your life, are there some things that hold a place in your heart?
Does your desire to have a home that looks like it’s out of a magazine impact your ability to be hospitable?
Does your car payment keep you from saving up to go on mission trips or sponsor a child from Compassion International?
Do your children’s extracurricular activity costs keep your family from having the time or the means to serve in your community?
It’s really easy to get caught up in materialistic things.
Even things that seem like they’re really great can become a stronghold in your life if you’re not careful.
So when you notice something taking up a lot of your time or money, stop to examine it.
Make sure that the thing isn’t stopping you from keeping the greatest commandment.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
And one more thing about being materialistic.
If your husband has done a really great job at getting that education and experience and your family has worked really hard to get out of debt and build savings and now you have extra, calm down.
Don’t be the Joneses.
You know, the family that people are trying to keep up with.
It’s important to live within your community.
Scripture tells us to set an example with speech and conduct, but your spending doesn’t need to be aspirational.
If you make significantly more than the average member, fill your retirement account, pay off all your debt, tithe extra, or find a way to use your extra money to bless others.
To sum it up – have a side hustle, know your worth, have some transparency, tithe, and don’t be materialistic.
These five personal money rules for pastors will help your family to flourish in ministry and set a great example for the people at your church.
What are some money rules for pastors that your family follows? Tell us in the comments!
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