Interview: Payment System Is Essential to Keep Pastors at Work

A picture shows a person holding the Bible.
A picture shows a person holding the Bible.
By Nakaoka ZhangNovember 7th, 2022

"Whether it's in the city, countryside, mountainous area or island, we can guarantee that every church in the city has a dedicated pastor to lead the ministry, and they would never quit easily," said Pastor Z, an old pastor in the Fujian province.

Pastor Z (pseudonym for safety reasons) explained the equal pay system established by the local CC&TSPM with the Gospel Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper.

In the 1990s, Pastor Z, who was then the chairman of the CC&TSPM of P City, led the development of a salary evaluation system for preachers in the city. In this evaluation system, the salaries of grassroots pastoral staff are uniformly assessed and issued by the local CC&TSPM. Their salary standards are identified according to their pastoral age, ordination, administrative position, and educational level.

"For example, a pastor who graduated from a seminary and has served in a grassroots church for about 10 years can earn more than 5,500 yuan a month, excluding social insurance and housing funds, according to our evaluation criteria in four aspects. If you are a seminarian who just joined the ministry, the salary is about 4,000 yuan," added the pastor.

As an ancient historical and populous city in eastern Fujian, P City has more than one hundred registered churches. In addition to the main churches in some urban areas, there are nearly one hundred small churches scattered in various inland mountains and even islands. The payment guarantee of these preachers is also the focus of the local CC&TSPM.

"Whether you're a pastor in a church with a few hundred people in an urban area or a minister in a small church with a dozen or 20 people on an island, everyone gets paid at the same rate," said Pastor Z.

In order to set a good example for the preachers of the city's grassroots churches, Pastor Z, who was also in charge of the downtown church at that time, took the lead in following the system. "In terms of conditions alone, our churches in the city must be better in terms of contribution, and there is nothing wrong with a higher salary," said Paster Z. "But in order to motivate our grassroots preachers, I'm going to have to make some sacrifices in terms of personal salary."

In this way, the pay gap between urban and rural preachers vanished. "Now almost all of our local grassroots churches are led by full-time preachers, and all of them are very satisfied with their position and we have not encountered any shortage or loss of pastors due to economic problems."

In addition to eliminating the differences in the treatment of urban and rural pastors, P City also made a unique exploration into the welfare treatment of retired preachers.

More than a decade ago, Pastor Z retired from his post as the head of the municipal council and the director of the church. However, his service did not stop because of his retirement. Instead, he became even busier and happier. For him, this fulfilling retirement is partly a result of the local reemployment system for retired pastors. It is the welfare security system characterized by the retirement system.

"The retirement system is an additional supplementary welfare mechanism established by our local CC&TSPM for grassroots pastors in addition to social security, which has been implemented for more than ten years." Tracing the history of the retirement system, Pastor Z introduced.

Based on the drafting and establishment of the system, the P City CC&TSPM set up a special retirement fund. Contributions to the fund are made periodically by the staff on the payroll and their affiliated churches. One-third of the money is paid by the pastors and the rest is paid by the churches. When pastors retire, the retirement fund will be paid along with Social Security.

At the same time, in order to ensure that the retirement system can benefit every grassroots pastor, every church in the city has set up a full-time retirement group, which is responsible for identification, review, management, and other related administration such as social security and retirement fund. "Regardless of whether or not the pastor has become a regular pastor when they enter the church and start serving, our care group will follow up with social security and care funds."

The pastor said, at present, the living standards of local pastors in P City after their retirement is basically the same as before their retirement. "Retired pastors can be rehired to serve with the consent of the CC&TSPM, and their salaries will still be calculated according to the previous four criteria, except for the administrative salary. But when you add in social security and the retirement fund, you'll be able to pretty much make up the shortfall." Today, about 90 percent of retired pastors in the city have been rehired and are still active in the ministry.

"I think the close relationship between believers and pastors is based on a steady supply of preachers. The church is God's family, and it is necessary for pastors to devote themselves to pastoral service without any worry so that the congregation will be fed more abundantly through their pastoral service. Once their spiritual growth is established, it will be self-evident and natural for them to serve the preachers." 

In today's local rural church, most of the rice, noodles, and vegetables for grassroots pastors are spontaneously provided by the laity, who have grown them in the countryside. "It may be said that we urban pastors envy the countryside pastors in terms of food," Pastor Z concluded with a laugh.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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