By James Rickard. Reprinted with permission from the Baptist Bulletin Jan/Feb ‘09 issue. All rights reserved.
In the mid-1960s as a young accountant, I began helping my pastor prepare his state and federal tax returns. I was surprised at his meager salary, lack of fringe benefits, and inability to provide financially for his future. His family lived in a church-owned parsonage totally controlled by the church; they couldn’t even paint a wall without committee approval. It was a large farmhouse that was difficult to maintain and expensive to heat. I remember visiting that parsonage and finding his wife in tears over the frustration of living under those conditions. And I remember thinking, This is not right. Little did I know how that experience would begin to sow the seeds for the Stewardship Services Foundation, a ministry that would allow me to devote my energies to counseling pastors regarding finances, helping them prepare their personal income tax returns, and teaching church boards how to structure pastors’ salary packages within the limits of IRS tax law. As a result, in 1977 the Stewardship Services Foundation ministry was born.
A church board needs to know about salary packages and their proper application in the budget process. The most important issue when it comes to this subject is the board’s attitude—a proper understanding of the salary package issue and the desire to meet the needs of the pastor’s family with a spirit of generosity.