Shepherdess: How to Live on a Pastor's Pay

Here are three tips from a pastor's wife who for years has been coping with the limitations of a minister's salary. One will help you stretch the budget, but the other two may prove to be even more beneficial.

Anne Elver writes from Ringwood, Oklahoma.

This month Anne Elver gives the minister's wife some practical suggestions for bridging the gulf between ever-present desires and real needs. It is possible, although not easy, to have contentment on a limited income.

The aspect of Anne's testimony that especially appeals to my heart is the spiritual foundation upon which she builds in solving the challenges of balancing the clergy budget. She doesn't use the word ' 'stewardship,'' but she sets forth true principles of stewardship as they relate to the use of money.

It's exhilarating to understand that God is our owner and that we are His managers of time, talents, treasures, and the body temples He has loaned us. Anne has found that God makes Himself responsible for success in financial matters if we consider our income a "trust" and "spend it wisely and prayerfully.''

You' II benefit from a single reading of her message. But several readings will help you see even more clearly the "unseen assets" that truly are part of the clergy couple's compensation.—Marie Spangler.

"I hate being a pastor's wife," Betty blurted out as we discussed stretching our husbands' salaries. "If Tom would leave the ministry, I'd be delighted. We never have enough money!" I cringed at the resentment in her tone, but understood her feelings.

Betty's words affected me strongly because I believe every pastor's wife has a unique role in her husband's ministry. I have often been dissatisfied with my husband's salary too, but an attitude like Betty's might endanger her marriage and could ruin her husband's ministry. Budgeting is difficult on a pastor's salary. Years of practice, however, have convinced me that it has its benefits as well as it's disadvantages and that Betty's feelings aren't justified.

My budget is a blessing in disguise, forcing me to learn self-discipline that I might not otherwise learn- My faith has grown because of my husband's salary, since I must depend on the Lord to guide my budgeting. Here are some ways that I cope with living on a pastor's salary.

1, I refuse to entertain thoughts that rob me of contentment over our budget. Only someone in total isolation could avoid comparing himself to others materially. I am no exception. When I accidentally or deliberately notice the material status of others, I'm tempted to start feeling either deprived or proud, neither of which pleases the Lord. Material status doesn't indicate individual worth, intelligence, or spirituality.

Once I visited a new family in town and noticed that their furniture was shabbier than ours, our clothes were more stylish, et cetera. The next time I asked the Lord to speak to me, He did. He talked to me about the proud attitude I had cultivated by comparing myself with someone else. The reverse happens more often, and I place myself as the underdog. I have to check carefully the tendency to compare myself with others, lest an ugly breach of separation develop.

To protect my contentment, I also have to squelch the fond notion that more money would solve my financial plight. Some interesting statistics I heard somewhere prove this. A pollster asked people how much more money they needed to meet all their wants and needs. Without exception each per son those in the highest income levels as well as those in the lowest estimated that another 20 to 30 percent would be necessary! Occasionally, when our needs seem so greatly to outdistance our income, I have been tempted to encourage my husband to find another profession. But I know that the Lord issued Harry's call, and neither he nor I would be happy doing anything else. So I push aside thoughts of discontent. No matter what Harry's occupation, there would be some facet I wouldn't like.

I am unique, and my ability to cope with our family's finances is an individual matter; therefore I guard my attitudes toward material assets carefully to avoid either self-pity or pride. Contentment with our financial situation resides largely in my own attitude, and I will control my attitude.

2. My income is a trust; I spend it wisely and prayerfully. I pray about our wants and needs, and the Lord always provides. No matter how He answers, I stay receptive.

My daughter recently wanted a silk flower arrangement for her room. I prayed that God would help me find one.

Several days later I visited a friend, and before I left she said, "I have some extra flower arrangements. Would you like to have several?" She offered me two, one in the colors my daughter had wanted and another matching my room! I told my friend that her gift had answered prayer. If the Lord provides for me in this way, I will be a gracious receiver, knowing that He works through others.

Sometimes I save by shopping for our needs at garage sales, secondhand shops, and through newspaper advertisements. "Anne, that white blouse is lovely. Where did you get it?" a friend asked the first time I wore it. She was shocked to learn that I'd picked it up for three dollars at a garage sale. I often find quality items this way, and I thank the Lord each time. This stretches my budget further.

End-of-season sales stretch my clothing dollar too, and I am thankful for the money saved. My wardrobe is built around several neutral colors and classic styles, enabling me to use ,my clothes until they wear out. This lets me pick up sale items, knowing that colors and styles will match.

Secondhand and sale items, however, can cause the unwary to become so fascinated with saving money that he wastes it instead. I judge potential purchases by certain guidelines to avoid this trap. When I bought the blouse my friend complimented, 1 also considered a purple one for less money. I selected the white one because it would match anything. The purple blouse, even though a bit more economical, would have matched only one skirt. The limited use expected from the purple blouse made the white one, at more money, a better buy.

When purchasing secondhand items, carefully examine them first. Stains on permanent press items won't wash out. If a garment shows wear in obvious places, I don't buy it. And if something is of questionable fit, I don't buy it either. Not long ago I passed up a new jean skirt at a garage sale that might have fit my daughter. The price was attractive, but only if it fit. Otherwise, the money would have been completely wasted.

I extend our budget by purchasing secondhand equipment as well as clothes. Since equipment may have hidden flaws, I try to obtain a guarantee. I once located a camera in a pawn shop and persuaded the owner to give me a ninety-day guarantee. When the first roll of film revealed needed repairs that I couldn't have detected otherwise, the seller made the guarantee good. But without his backing the camera wouldn't have been a wise purchase.

The Lord often works within me when I pray about a particular purchase. I prayed once for a camper so our family could take economical vacations. Later that summer a church family loaned us theirs, and we did save on motel costs, as I anticipated. When we returned, our friends announced that they were selling the camper. Unseen expenses—insurance, storage, and maintenance—caused them to make this decision. I realized then that for us motels were more economical than a camper. My desire to own one disappeared.

Neither had I foreseen, when praying for a camper, the limited time we could use one. God was wise not to provide a camper when I asked Him to. Resentment might have troubled me when Harry's ministry kept us from enjoying it. Whenever God delays answering my prayers, I know He is doing so for a better reason than I can see, so I try to accept His "No" graciously.

The Lord provides for our family's needs and many wants as well when I prayerfully consider both. Sometimes He provides through gifts from others, sometimes through new and used bar gains, and sometimes by changing my wants. But whenever I cooperate with Him, my finances are adequate.

3. The blessings I receive as a pastor's wife are more valuable than money. I count these unseen assets as compensation. Many women in our church are as qualified to give advice as I am, but some people who won't go to anyone else seek me out. This gives me a unique opportunity to minister. I rejoice each time someone tells me, "Thanks for listening . . . and praying." Such satisfaction is priceless.

My husband appreciates my abilities and makes provision for me to use them when I desire to. A few days ago he answered the telephone, talked to the caller a few moments, and then excused himself to determine if I was available and willing to see this person Monday morning. He had an out-of-town meeting that day, and this woman needed counsel. She agreed to see me, and I had the privilege of shouldering her burden and encouraging her in Harry's place. Not many occupations permit this extra compensation of being a "minister by marriage."

Harry and I enjoy counseling engaged couples together. The Biblical advice for husbands and wives comes alive as we tell them how we apply it to ourselves.

Each time we open ourselves like this our relationship grows stronger and our love increases. The ministry provides a unique opportunity for marital growth. This benefit isn't measurable in financial terms either.

My husband's ministry has awakened me to interests I might not have pursued otherwise. When members of our church expressed concern for a relative who had joined a cult, I researched the group thoroughly out of personal interest. My thirst for knowledge was fed, and later I was able to discuss the implications of the cult group with the family.

Frequent moves have taught me to turn a church-owned parsonage into a personalized dwelling quickly. When someone comments on how I've made the parsonage a home, I have a unique chance to testify to the grace and love of the Lord working in me, since moving isn't my favorite thing. My testimony might be the turning point in someone's life. This is compensation that may show up only in eternity, but it is real nevertheless.

Like Betty's husband, my husband's salary isn't what it should be. But I will not let this rob me of my contentment. I guard my attitudes toward material things and finances carefully, spend wisely, and consider the blessings I enjoy from being a pastor's wife as unlimited riches. My attitude toward my husband's salary can make my lot in life a blessing or a curse, and I want it to be a blessing.


Prayers from the Parsonage

by Cherry B. Habenicht

Memphis, Egypt

Ramses II is shown alive in this colossal statue, though he has been dead for more than three thousand years. His attached beard is straight rather than curled as in death. His left foot is advanced as if he is ready to step forward.

This is only one of many great statues, as well as magnificent temples, which Ramses ordered constructed during his reign of sixty-seven years. Proud and jealous, he appropriated predecessors' monuments along the Nile by removing their names and inscribing his own.

How zealously this Pharaoh sought immortality! He could not foresee that the statue would lie buried in sand for centuries, its left side eroded by river water. Nor could he know that a confused Egyptian inspector would one day tax his mummy as imported dried fish!

Eternal God, each of us seeks immortality in some way. We do not want to be like grass or the flower of the field. We work to leave memorials: assets, accomplishments, buildings, heirs. Let this statue—a nearly perfect representation of an imperfect man—remind me that there is only one "Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:15, 16).

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Anne Elver writes from Ringwood, Oklahoma.

July 1984

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