More than a year ago, after studying theology in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, Brother L, born in 1995, began to work as a full-time pastor for a church in East China. Recently, Brother L talked with the Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, about the persistent problem of salary and treatment of pastors.
This past year’s full-time serving experience taught him much. “Last year I sold citrus. Why did I do that? It’s simple because I had to. In many overseas places, the treatment of the pastor is good - not only for the pastor himself but also for the needs of the family, that is, you work for the church and the church in return can do this for you, including children’s education. However, many of the treatments are not available in China,” he stated.
As Brother L said the salary of pastors is becoming an increasingly serious problem encountered by the Chinese church in today’s society. He does not think that all this is caused by the wrong attitude of pastors themselves. There may be some “greedy” pastors for money and material, but the main reason is the development of the times and society as well as the long-standing misconception of the Chinese church on pastors’ pay. So far, many pastors and believers still hold that pastors ought to support themselves and their families, and that pastors will go bad if they consider money or pay.
Perhaps in Chinese mainland churches, there are various historical and practical reasons why pastors do not consider money. However, on the other hand, we also need to note that the times and society are developing and changing rapidly, and today has become completely different from times in the past. For instance, many old people do not understand why young people nowadays do not want to have children. They do not think raising a kid a big deal - nothing more than “adding an extra bowl and an extra pair of chopsticks” (a Chinese idiom meaning increasing the number of people in a family as one more person needs one more portion of food to feed, translator’s note). It is as if when children grow up they only need food. Only young people themselves know what a huge undertaking it is to have and raise children.
Nowadays, the living needs of pastors are far from simple matters like eating. Apart from the most basic issues like food and clothing, other realistic and common needs are travelling, medical treatment, marriage, raising children, children’s education, social security, parents’ pension, etc., not to mention housing because, whether buying or renting a house, it will greatly empty people’s wallets.
Brother L, born after 1995, is very young and unmarried. He is in the process of getting married. He naturally knows the needs of the young, but his answer was completely beyond my expectations.
When asked about the solution to the salary and treatment of pastors, he said, “I would like to be a stepping stone. The church should not raise the pay for me, but for the next generation of pastors. In my opinion, the reason why it is difficult to solve is that, and it is exactly this point, one doesn’t apply for the rise of pay for oneself but for others. I don’t think it possible to speak directly to the deacons or church committees to give me a higher salary, but there is one thing we can do, and that is, let the church improve it for the younger generation. I know that many pastors in the church are in their 40s or 50s being twice my age, but many of them are unwilling. Many of them will think, ‘Why? Why not increase my pay but theirs?’ With all due respect, in my opinion, this is no embodiment of a correct pastor’s mentality. They don’t have the heart to cultivate others, sacrifice themselves for others, or rather they’re envious of others. ‘If pay was to be increased, mine should be’. Do you think it might change if the pastors have this idea?”
He continued, “Obviously not. Therefore, it is only necessary to change this concept, abandon this concept - do not increase mine but that of the next generation. Not too high, of course, but not too low neither. If it’s too high, people’s mentality may change. Anyway, it’s hard to find a job now especially this year. If it’s too high, many who don’t really want to serve will come in. However, the problem now is that the monthly salaries of pastors are generally too low with 1,000 yuan or even only 500 yuan.” Pastors are not superhuman or immortals, they are human beings with basic living needs.
At the end of the talk, the young millennial preacher said, “We need to let our brothers and sisters know that pastors ought to live by faith, but meanwhile pastors need to live too, and there is no contradiction between faith and salaries.”
- Translated by Charlie Li