A Glimpse into the Landscape of Chinese Preachers

A wooden cross stands in front of an opened Bible on the rocks.
A wooden cross stands in front of an opened Bible on the rocks. (photo: Canva.com)
By Josiah LiAugust 30th, 2023

Compared with decades ago, preachers’ salaries and theology literacy today have significantly improved, but they also face the unique challenges of this era.

The compensation is constantly improving. In some economically developed southeast coastal areas, the monthly salary of urban church preachers reaches around RMB 5,000 or RMB 6,000, and some old preachers with many years of experience can reach nearly RMB 10,000, in addition to social insurance and housing subsidies. The preachers in some churches get 13 months' salary and have an allowance for retirement.

In some areas, grass-roots churches have begun to give financial assistance to their preachers. Fujian churches established the "Pastoral Respect Festival," Guangxi and Shaanxi churches carried out the "Good Shepherds Campaign,"  and Jilin and Shandong churches raised special funds for preachers. Churches in a prefecture-level city in East China set a unified salary standard for full-time urban and grass-root co-workers and subsidized extra commuting expenses for pastors in local churches.

The preachers are also improving their theology literacy, which is related to the church requirements for the preachers and the seminary's teaching quality improvement. Most of today's full-time preachers have received professional theological training, and the number of graduates with a bachelor's degree or above is increasing. Some theological colleges have been upgraded to undergraduate colleges and the number of graduate students at Jinling Union Theological Seminary is gradually increasing.

In recent years, formal theological training has been required to be established as a preacher. In the past few years, pastors in some places have needed to publish articles in Christian journals to establish themselves. Recently, they were further required to publish articles in higher-level academic journals.

Most city churches are not short of preachers and even have a saturated number of them. However, many grass-roots churches do not have full-time preachers, with only volunteers in charge of ministries and management and pastors from urban churches regularly or irregularly invited to preach sermons. Many grass-roots churches have no awareness of remunerating preachers, which limits their development.

Preachers need to be certified to give sermons. In the past two or three years, the religious administration apartment has standardized preacher management, and preachers without formal theological training are not allowed to preach in the pulpit. This ensured sermon quality, but some responsible volunteers in rural churches could not preach because they could not get the certificate.

Preachers need retraining. It is difficult for many preachers to have systematic learning after graduating from theology. What they have learned in the seminary alone is not enough to support their long-term service. Fortunately, some theological seminaries have held improvement classes, and some churches have organized retreat meetings for the preachers and co-workers, which are good attempts.

- Translated by Oliver Zuo

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