Sunday, 26 August 2007

Raise Your Own Salary

I have been struggling with this issue for a while now. Some Christian organisations I know of practise the policy in which their staff workers are required to raise their own salaries from their own sources, be it from their personal contacts or church.

I confess that I find no rational argument for this practice. In fact, I think this practice is not even biblical because every employer must ensure that the workers are paid the wages due to them, and not the workers pay their own salaries (cf. Col 4:1; James 5:4)!

I believe the popularity of this practice of requiring workers to raise their own salaries comes from organisational leadership that tries at all costs to avoid raising funds themselves, even though fund-raising is universally acknowledged to be a primary responsibility of those in leadership positions or in the board of directors/trustees. I believe that it is the responsibility of the leadership of an organisation to take the lead in raising the funds needed to sustain that organisation, particularly the salaries of the workers, and not the other way around.

How many of us in "secular" employment would want to work for an employer that tells us to raise our own salaries? If the practice of raising one's salary is unheard of in "secular" employment, why is this practised in Christian organisation?

Is this another example of the sacred-secular divide in reality? Are we preaching one thing and practising another? Any thoughts on this?


sp lim said...

How about 1Cor 9:9-14, Gal 6:6 and I Tim 5:18?

Maybe the argument is 'full-time' workers should live by faith. But how about the rest of us? No doubt we have often heard of testimonies of how God provided for them, sometimes at the last minute from some unexpected source. And how their faith has been strengthened as a result. Well, God is gracious.

The whole debate on the sacred/secular divide misses out the analogy of the church to the human body. Can a divided human body function properly?

Yes, I agree that requiring 'full time' workers to raise their own funds doesn't come across to me as biblical. Para church organizations should raise funds through the local church. I must confess that even though I disagree, I'm currently supporting a full-time worker and his family through this model because I do believe in the work they are doing.

pearlie said...

I never thought of it that way - but now I tend to agree with you, that it is not biblical other than the fact that we are to trust God and live by faith but that does not discount the requirement to be fair to workers and to pay them their dues.

The closest secular employment I can think of are contractors. I am not employed by you per se, but by my employer. Yet I work for you and you pay me. But more often than not you pay my employer and my employer pay me. Or how about those in sales where commissions are given? Not exact but close?

It takes a great deal of faith and work and networking to be in this environment. One have to work at getting the attention of people, have to know quite a lot of people to raise enough funds and trust them and ultimately God, for those committed to keep their word. Wouldn't it be more efficient and effective for the organisation to manage and distribute the funds and have the workers just concentrating on the work, rather than to have to do everything.

Lee Chee Keat said...

"Full time" gospel workers should deserve to be paid as they are taking care the flock of sheep of a church. Like what Paul argued in 1 Cor 9, he should be paid as an apostle as he had given the tasks to take care the flock of church members in Corinth. Therefore, I don't think we should purposely make the "full time" workers to live by faith. In fact, they have the right to demand as they are looking after us spiritually and doing the work in expanding the kingdom of God. Hence, we should be responsible in taking care of them by paying what they need. I think most para church organizations do raise funds but some how I think it's insufficient. So they encourage the individuals to scout the support for themselves from their closest friends who believe in their work. I think it just method and ways of raising funds. I don't think there's any biblical or ethical or morally wrong about that!!

Tony Siew said...

I agree with you, Kar Yong. The employer (Board or Council) must raise the salaries of all church workers, pastors, lecturers, etc. In fact, the employers must go further to make sure all the needs (proper salary package) are taken care of. Salary increase must also be taken into consideration, among other factors, is "performance" as "those rule well and labour in preaching and teaching" are to be doubly compensated(1 Tim 5:18).

It's nothing to do with "living by faith", an oft-cited excuse for not looking after the welfare of full-time workers by their employers. All Christians should walk by the same rule, that is, living by faith.

The other thing is full-time workers must be happy (and be thankful to God and to their employers) with their pay as offered or negotiated between them and the employers. There is nothing worse than church workers complaining for the lack of money in their present ministry. If one is not happy, then perhaps one should consider quitting and find a better paying job.

Lee Mei said...

I must confess that unconsciously I tend to think that people who work as "full time" workers live a life of faith where since God called them to the ministry, He will take care of their needs. So if God takes care, they would have no problem raising funds for themselves.

However, the question we should as ourselves is why would they need to resort to this method? Even if the leaders of these organization is responsible to raise funds for their workers, then where would they get the money? Shouldn't it come from those of us who God gave us the ability to earn money by working in the secular.

What are we, people working in the secular doing to ensure that organizations do have the funds so that their workers need not raise their own funds? Could it be that we do not give enough?

I remember a speaker once ask if we give out of our pockets till we feel the pain?

I do agree that para church organizations should raise funds through the local church. What I find challenging is how many secular working Christians are really partnering their ministries by supporting them financially? Could we earn a living in the marketplace, live a simple life and give the rest of our income to support them?

Global-South said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kar Yong said...

Dear SP,
Thanks for supporting a full-time worker. When I hear of friends who are in their early 20s entering full-time ministry and need to raise funds of their salaries, I really emphatise with them. How many of them have friends who are financially able to support them since many of their peers would have just started entering the job market?

I agree that the "living by faith"argument is a fallacy. All us do actually "live by faith" whether we are in "sacred" or "secular" employment!

Kar Yong said...

Dear Pearlie, Chee Keat and Tony,
Thanks for the contribution to the discussion.

I have also highlighted the statistics of the salary of pastors as released by the NECF Survey in 2001 in another post,

While we may be contented with our pay (no matter how low it is), the church or Christian organisations should never use this excuse NOT to relook into the existing renumeration package.

Kar Yong said...

Dear Lee Mei,

Thanks for your thoughts. I think for many of us (yours truly is definitely one of those), we give out of our surplus, but we never really experience giving out of our poverty, as the Macedonian church.

I think many of us really need to work closer together in financial partnership. Perhaps it is time we look into financial planning, establishing endownment and trust/foundations specifically for supporting Christian organisations, seminaries and full-time workers.

Having said that, many Christian organisations do not really make known their financial needs to the wider public as well.