I talked with my spiritual director last week about some of my issues with getting a paycheck from a church, and I'm really unsettled about a lot of it, so I'm going to free write a bit and pop off some ideas that are bugging me. I haven't thought through any of this fully, so it's entirely possible I won't agree with anything here in the future.
It's honestly probably unwise to write about any of this, as currently my family's one and only source of income is my church paycheck.
Whatever. I'mma do it anyway. Let's bite the hand that feeds.
I guess what's irritating me is twofold.
First, our church does a lot of work with unhoused folks in our neighborhood, but while the St. Johns Village has been an incredible blessing to houseless people in our community, more and more unhoused folks remain on the street. Dozens are in our neighborhood right now. Our church could do a ton more to help, but our budget is pretty tight.
And $40,000 of that budget each year goes to me.
What if it didn't, though? $40,000 is a lot of money that could help a lot of people. It seems like it would help people living on the street waaaaaayyyy more than it helps me.
Second, I know the financial situation of many of our church members, and it's pretty bad. The idea that my paycheck comes on the back of people who are themselves struggling....it doesn't feel great. I think about the disciples sitting in the temple with Jesus, and Jesus telling them to beware of the teachers of the law, who pray lengthy prayers and "devour widows' homes." And then a widow shows up and gives all that she has to the temple. The disciples watch in action as a widow's home is devoured by the teachers of the law.
That's really crappy. I don't want our church to be like that. I don't want any church to be like that.
I was screaming about all of these things to my spiritual director, and I was like, "I'm going to find a different job. The church can use this money better." But almost immediately I realized, if I gave up my paycheck, the first thing the church would immediately do with that money is to raise everyone's salary.
Because that's how churches work. Extra money goes to salaries. Nearly every church in America would do it that way. That's what churches do.
And like, I know that, were I to quit, a lot of church folks would be unsettled. After all, if I'm doing another job, I'm not able to do church stuff as much. I couldn't be there for some of our people in the way that they might need.
I totally get that. My therapist quit a few months ago and I'm still pissed at her for it. And I really, really don't want to do that to any of the people at SJC.
Still, given the choice between my consistent presence and the ability for houseless folks to survive a cold winter, the church should probably go with the latter.
Given the choice between my constant presence and the ability for some of our church members to be able to make their rent payments, the church should probably go with the latter.
It's weird and uncomfortable and awkward to talk about any of this, because I actually really love what I do. I'm grateful to get to do it. And I think I'm pretty good at it (maybe that's debatable). None of this is about me wanting to leave my role here.
Maybe this is just my own guilt about receiving a paycheck from a church. It probably is.
You know what, though? I don't want to ever work for a church and not have that guilt.
I don't know, dude. I don't know what I think about any of this. All I know is that I'm unsettled about being paid by a church; about the idea of Christian leaders receiving their main salaries from a church. I've been unsettled about it for years, and it's only gotten worse.
Maybe I'm the only one. I don't think I am.