Week 73: "I’m wondering how branch churches decide who should or will be paid (and thus, who won't)."

Response 1: Ned Odegaard

There may be some practical steps available here, such as taking a fresh look at the job definition of these roles and stripping away excess steps that may have accumulated over the years. And there may also be a practical need to pay non-member musicians for their services. But my instinct is that this question isn’t really one of equity in compensation, but of commitment to Christian Science. My own prayers on this topic have been raising some pretty sobering and humbling follow-on questions:

  • Has compensation become an unstated condition for church members to take on these roles? Do we each have a list of church jobs that we won’t accept?
  • Where does church work rank in our own priorities? Is church our “first love,” or are we outsourcing our commitment by hiring others to fill these jobs?
  • What does it actually mean to be a Christian Scientist? If we are followers of Christ, how does discipleship today compare to discipleship in Jesus’ day? Did Jesus’ disciples see their role as primary or secondary in their lives? Were they fishermen first and disciples second — or the other way around? Were they driven by commitment or by convenience?
  • Is Christian Science just another activity in our lives, or is it a calling?

Grappling with these questions can be challenging, even uncomfortable—but there are answers and solutions. When it seems like the spiritualizing influence of the Christ is absent, human thought wants to be left alone to pursue comfort and convenience—to go with the human flow. But the Christ is not absent. The Father-Mother God loves us so much, so deeply, so directly, that we are not left to the drift of human thought. The “divine influence ever present in human consciousness” (Science and Health, p. xi ) is there to guide and direct us for any and all questions, even those regarding church work! So what do we do when asked to fill a job that we don’t want or when we can see that a role is unfilled? We turn to Love for the substance of our thoughts, for the tone of our words, for the direction of our steps.

Church is one of God’s specific provisions for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, our membership in church is a divine appointment, not simply a human step. The same divine impulse that led us to the discipleship that church membership represents is here to elevate our desires above the satisfaction and comfort of personal sense to selfless service to God. I know this to be true because I have experienced it myself. I can think of two examples where I was appointed to church roles that were very far from my own personal sense of how I wanted to spend my time. These church jobs forced me to grapple with the questions listed above. While growth was not always easy, it did come, and these experiences became life changers for me–blessings beyond measure.

Response 2: Pamela Cook

The phrase that came immediately to me in response to this question is “distinctly democratic” from this Church Manual By-Law: “In Christian Science each branch church shall be distinctly democratic, and no individual, and no other church shall interfere with its affairs” (p 74). Each branch church stands alone, an extension of The Mother Church, and is supported by all the divine power that impelled Mrs. Eddy to pen the Manual. Each branch’s decisions and actions are the outward expression of the members’ collective demonstration of Christian Science. If a branch’s purpose is to be “found elevating the race” (Science and Health, p. 583), then its demonstration must be based on consecrated prayer, and when it is, it inevitably fulfills its purpose, bringing healing to individual members and the broader community.

This By-Law also makes it clear that each branch church must make its own demonstration, without being influenced by what others are doing. As individuals, we can demonstrate only what we understand (see, for example, Science and Health, p. 323:14-16, p. 495:3, p. 254:16-19); similarly, the members of each branch church must pray to understand their purpose as an expression of the divine idea, church, relying on the textbooks and our Leader’s other writings—and not one another—for guidance.

The Bible cautions, “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10). It’s not money per se, but the love of it that causes problems. In considering the question at hand, a good starting point for prayer might be for the membership to examine its motives for paying or not paying for certain tasks. If your branch keeps a laser focus on its purpose as an expression of God’s eternal idea, church, and brings to this question a deep understanding of its motives regarding money, you will arrive at the decisions that are best for you and your community at this time. And if these decisions are based on the members’ individual prayers, “fitly joined together” (Eph. 4:16) in an atmosphere of brotherly love, they will have a solid foundation, and healing and prosperity will naturally follow.

  1. I can remember a time when paying members to be readers or reading room librarians or attendants was unthinkable but in our church some members are convinced that if you put in the time and the effort and also should it interfere with the time u could spend earning money doing another job you should be compensated and in the case of the reading room librarian compensated at the going rate of a comparable position out in the workplace. If someone speaks up against this they are often looked upon as a Scrooge. It's a bit of a problem!

  2. When I was church treasurer, initially I accepted a salary because it was offered. I brought new energy to the position: simplifying reports and consolidating checking accounts, purchasing a computer and software at my own expense and learning to use excel to keep records and prepare a detailed monthly report; all pleasing to the Board. Blessing the church brought me blessings from the opportunity to serve. After awhile I realized that the salary was not necessary, it was essentially a token amount compared to the hours, and in my situation, I was glad to purchase the computer because it was a tool that grew me in my church work as well as professionally. It was fun, a pure joy. Later I was a reader and declined the salary, I enjoyed it so much, I could not dream of being paid.

    I'm aware of situations where the salary was important to a member in their personal situation and they still brought energy to the duty. A salary can be a way of saying thank you from the membership, and the motives to accept a salary very individual. For me, the blessings of serving our cause just eliminated the desire for being paid.

    Part of the answer to the question is: what are the motives to pay a salary, and what are the motives to accept a paid position and accept a salary. Ned's questions deserve deep consideration.

  3. Answer No.1 was especially helpful. It looks at the reasons for payment and reasons for accepting it. I've done 2nd Reader three time. Payment was available in one church, but I felt I could give that to the church. This led the 1st Reader to think that he also had to decline payment. However, our situations were not the same. He had read at least twice previously without payment, was just going into the public practice of Christian Science, was sharing an office, lived quite a distance, and took considerable time from his practice to prepare two services. In my opinion, he should definitely have accepted the payment.

  4. Though in a sound financial position, our church is not able to compensate with money any of these positions mentioned. Non member musicians who substitute as soloists or pianists are paid as is our Sunday pianist who is a non member. Our Wed pianist is a member and is not paid (that's me!) and we have three members who rotate as soloists and they are not paid.

    Speaking for myself only, I feel that I am compensated well beyond what a paycheck would be for playing on Wed night. The growth spiritually, the ability to provide music to the healing services, and the contribution of time have all blessed me and "compensated" me in ways that money can't touch!

    We do purchase gift subscriptions for our Readers to the Sentinel, Journal and Monitor.

  5. I think these comments are all very good and helpful. I also believe it boils down to individual circumstances and a church's ability to pay. Declining payment can sometimes cause problems as mentioned by Ginny (#3). As a church musician I have appreciated receiving payment over the years. It met a need and I know it does for others also. Each case is different so I don't think you can generalize.


  6. When I first joined a Branch Church and learned the Readers were paid a salary, I thought, "This shows that the membership really values the work the Readers are doing." At another Branch, when I was elected First Reader I was paid a salary and given funds for private lessons in reading, for which I was most grateful. At my next Branch Church, I received a salary as Second Reader but declined it. Later I was elected First Reader and there were no funds for reading lessons, but I accepted the salary. It certainly is individual! All of these situations felt right. My wife, who attended a church of another denomination, appreciated that there was some payment for all of the work involved in reading. Even she is clear that it is a labor of love though, as am I.
    Thanks to both Ned and Pam for their observations and insights on this question. The situations of individual members and of branches and societies vary, but the honest willingness to look at our motivations and to follow God's leadings will bring demonstrations of His guidance and healing power to each one.

  7. I'm grateful for all the thoughtful insights shared above. I think Ned's question "Were they fishermen first and disciples second — or the other way around?" is especially important. It can help to ask yourself: Do I see myself as a teacher/farmer/astronaut who happens to be a Christian Scientist, or am I a Christian Scientist who happens to be a teacher/farmer/astronaut? Am I "bringing" Christian Science from the sidelines to help my work as a carpenter? Or am I using the challenges and lessons of carpentry to improve my primary work as a Christian Science healer? How we answer these questions individually and collectively will have an effect on our own lives and the prosperity of our churches, and will help inform the decision of when and what to pay, and when to take payment.

  8. When I was elected First Reader, I had been let go from my job and was doing part-time work. I found that I could not do both at the same time, and because I was being paid for reading, I could let the other go. Being paid helped my non-Scientist husband accept the time I was putting in to the reading, also. Later, when the membership became smaller and we had to be very careful about the money, I was happy to do many jobs and with no financial compensation. Mrs. Eddy felt that practitioners should be paid, and positions within The Mother Church are paid; what's the difference?

  9. Hi All--

    I think the two TMC answers evade the question at bit. When I was a First Reader at a branch church, I was paid--not a lot, but at least the church membership acknowledged the significant amount of time that was required to adequately prepare for Sunday mornings and Wednesday evening meetings. In turn, I always donated the full amount back to my branch church with the specification that it be used to enhance our church's outreach activities. So I made nothing, but felt that the church membership was expressing its gratitude and I was more than happy to reciprocate. I'll bet the Readers at TMC get paid. Why shouldn't branch church readers and musicians be compensated as well?

  10. There are many different thoughts about paying Church members for their services to Church. I feel the important one is that members don't take the job because of the pay but rather because they love the Church and want to give by serving. Our thoughts regarding serving is so important

  11. When I was very little, our family attended a large, affluent church. Back then Readers had to buy special clothes and books and were paid The same was true for ushers. There were two services on Sunday. Nowadays, people just wear their usual street clothes and often times churches provide the books from which to read. Musicians are often not members or even attendees, so they would naturally work for hire.

    I can see why those serving at The Mther Church get paid. They have to uproot themselves and move to expensive Boston. Even getting from one place to the other in the city can be expensive. They deserve remuneration. I have been First Reader twice and served also as Second Reader, Clerk, Sunday School teacher, Reading Room attendant, and many other positions, but have never accepted payment for such servie to my church. In serving "the structure of Truth and Love" I have been amply rewarded.

  12. Many branch churches do not have funds to pay any members for their time to support the church operations. But maintaining the church is number one priority for Sunday and Wednesday services. All branch churches normally have local established by-laws and local board approved guidelines for House and Grounds,Ushers,Treasurer,First and Second Readers based upon the manual and so on. If any position would get paid first, I would think it would be the readers. The soloist, organist are also very important to pay, as in many cases they do not belong to the branch church. Therefore, without readers and musicians you don't have a service. Sunday School operations are also very important and require some funds to obtain publications by computer or distribution of C.S. publications for class support. The C. S. Reading Rooms also require funds to obtain publications. So maintaining a branch church is no small task.

  13. I've thought alot about this and our church membership recently voted to pay the Librarian, RR workers, clerk, treasurer, Readers and Soloists.

    When I was praying about who should or shouldn't be paid I asked myself.... "Who needs to do their job in order for our church to function?" The church needs the treasurer, for example. Ushers are nice, but if they weren't there, and sometimes an usher doesn't show up...and the service still happens. The church needs Readers to have a service. If they don't show, it's a problem. That was my criteria for deciding who should be paid. If the person didn't do their job, or didn't show, how bad would it be?. Are they held accountable to a certain standard? If, for example the Sunday School Superintendent were held accountable, then it would be fair to pay them.

  14. Very interesting discussion about church salaries. I'm kinda 'old school' in that we all work hard and are blessed by our church activity, so some of us don't accept any compensation. Some will only take a position to receive the salary, so it really goes to motive. It is very individual for each branch.

    Our highest expense is for the musicians; organist and soloist; which are very expensive. So most of our funds go towards their salaries and also maintenance salaries.

  15. I like the idea of "distinctly democratic" expressed in a previous response. I would also add "distinctively individual." Over many years, in many "paid" church roles, I have always chosen to donate what I was paid or not to accept payment. That choice was always based on what was easier for the church treasurer. Even during my years as a single mom regrouping &; returning to graduate school so that I could update my skills to support my children, I returned any pay for roles served in church...and I & my children felt no need. We were blessed. My thought has always been that I needed to be "worthy" to be hired rather than my personal "worthiness" needed to be compensated. My compensation came quietly in blessings to me &; my children. I do understand that we must be willing to offer compensation for work well done, but also understand that the form may not be financial....

    PS: I wish it were possible to spell check these comments as I am a lousy typist & speller! My thought is clearer than the presentation may suggest!

  16. "The laborer is worthy of his hire". I feel that it should be the goal to fairly compansate those workers that need to devote considerable personal time to thief office. Some years ago I was Librarian for a very active jointly maintained Reading Room. From time to time the call went out for people to apply for the position of assistant librarian. We always remained fully staffed but I found that many especially qualified inquirers were not able to apply due to the level of wages offered. The Reading Room had been located in the most sought after retail area in the city. It should have been apparent that to get full value from the substantial rent paid the best prepared workers should be retained. We need to be guided by, "wisdom, economy and brotherly love".

    Through the years I have been privileged to be able to serve in many church related positions. Many we're jobs that provided an important part of my income. And there were times it felt right to donate the payment back to the church. I always accepted the check before donating the proceeds because I felt that it was fair to the church and later workers to think of that payment to be a continuing obligation.

  17. Many present-day Christian Scientists are returning from a Sunday School experience so I consider that my part in Sunday School operation is, in my reasoning, one of the most important. Transportation to church and Sunday School seemed to be a problem, but the answer came from one of our most regular and dedicated members to see that I was "on duty" every Sunday. God provides the way.

  18. I have a slightly different approach as to who gets paid and who doesn't. In this tough economy, it is only right to help a member with some kind of compensation if needed. The whole idea of working for a Church should be the joy of doing. The satisfaction of giving time to do Church work. I know myself, by being home bound with a physical condition, I can not volunteer for Usher, Reader, Librarian, but what I can do is write comments to the different C/S websites such as Daily Lifts, Time 4Thinkers, Spirit View, etc, which I enjoy, doing, knowing some one on the other side of the world might be helped by it. I was asked by a friend of mine, that I should get paid for these comments. I answered that the joy that I get from actually submitting these comments and seeing them posted is my compensation. But to get back to the individual churches, it's really up to the member and the Board of that church.

  19. I found this question very interesting and the answers and comments informative. It really is completely up to the membership of the individual churches, isn't it. Motive is a good topic to think about though.

  20. This is great and I really appreciate all the thoughtful approaches to this topic. The answer is in the question; ultimately each church decides how to spend its contributions. The cool thing about Church Alive is now we all get to share how it's being done around the world. In our branch church, the Board determines the salaries and the membership approves. Membership approval is crucial to maintaining a harmonious atmosphere for all services and meetings. Personality must be ushered out the door so honesty, economy, and brotherly love (among others) can be the deciding factor. Ponder "A Rule for Motives and Acts" before increasing, decreasing, or creating a paid position based on an individual's need. Shelly, your idea made me smile. It's true, the church needs Readers to have a service. Thus the Readers salary (if any) is a good basis for all other paid positions necessary for the operation of the church. Many of us have committed to support our branch church physically and financially. Budgets are a great way to keep the membership informed of the proposed expenditures and the required contributions. This has been very helpful in aiding discussion and agreement on the distribution of funds in our branch church. I've also enjoyed reading about branch churches who looked for alternatives to paying for non-member services; a prime example is using CDs instead of live musicians.

  21. I agree with Fawn, and the Manual, that it's up to each church to decide. There are Federal rules IF you DO decide to pay certain positions, and I found reviewing what's at The Mother Church's guidelines http://members.christianscience.com/church/files/2011/02/taxguidelinesobligations_2011.pdf very helpful.

  22. As a first time First Reader in my early 20s in a pretty large church, I did take a "salary." As mentioned above, it helped with clothing that was expected by the board and membership in those days and with gas money for coming and going since I lived a good distance away from a couple of the church buildings that we attended. The pay differed from church to church during that time (I read for approximately 6 years collectively because my family moved for better employment, and I never completed a full 3-year term at any one location. (We attended different churches in different states and/or cities.) But our needs were met, and church salaries helped. Over the past decades, I have been able to contribute more money than I was salaried in the early years, and have served gratis in every church offices over the past 30+ years. Christian Science has provide me and my family bountifully and I know it has come through constantly studying and serving the Movement where needed. I do think it is a good idea for churches to evaluate their salary schedules and to "start over" with all pay scales every now and then when the opportunity arises. Sometimes pay gets too low or is begun too high in comparison with the other paid positions, and this needs to be brought in line. I also find it is a good practice to actually cut checks to the people in the specified "paid" positions and allow them to make the contribution to their church in the amount they feel is appropriate. Even if individuals don't accept salaries (as I have been able to do for the past 40 or so years), the position should be budgeted with the proper amount of money, or that, too will cause the salary scales to get out of balance within the church. I also enjoy the CDs for church music. It is not only economical, but it has many advantages--consistently high quality, variety and availability, everyone can participate in choosing the music through suggesting or volunteering appropriate music, etc. (Our music committee makes the final decisions). We are new in this endeavor and have been trying it out for several months. The plan is for the Primary Musician (PM--who doesn't have to be a musician) to get the same salary as the First Reader. The membership is reworking the entire music program and trying it out. It has saved our church thousands of dollars in a relatively short time and doesn't appear to have sacrificed any quality. The CDs play through our speaker system and compliment the service, nicely. So far, they have created a lovely atmosphere, given us more flexibility and provided a cost effective music program. Our plan is to work in volunteer musicians (church members) as a part of their contribution to church.

  23. I knew a non-paid First Reader who early in the 3-year commitment to that 40 hr/wk job proclaimed, "This job is worth $100,000/year." The Reader tackled the job with total dedication, grateful every moment for the hard work and lessons, in awe of God's blessings for the church and its community. No whining.

    After the 3-years were over, the tally of income from unexpected sources was a little over $300,000.

  24. When I joined a Church where they had no soloist I offered to sing for them.(I had already been a soloist at my previous Church.) My offer was accepted but only to sing one Sunday a month as that was all the Church could afford. I said that I was very happy to sing with no payment, but the Board felt very strongly that a 'labourer is worthy of his hire' and they didn't want to go forward with something they felt could not be supported financially. With much prayerful support from the membership it was not long before I was singing every Sunday, refunding the Church in other ways.

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