Brian Withnell on Pay and Reward

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[Continuing Loudoun Insider's worst nightmare, we have another great post from Brian Withnell as a comment on this post about whether it is appropriate to be paid for work in religion, health or education.]

I have only one major disagreement with this. A pastor is someone that cannot do any other task because God has called him to be a pastor. If someone could do anything other than be a pastor, they should not be a pastor. If someone thinks of being a pastor as a way to make money, they need to leave that "job" and get out of the church. The worker may be worthy of his wages, but those wages should be the median wage of the people attending his church.

As to teaching, I can say only that while I agree in principle, I find that I am constrained in much the same way. When I ran for Clerk, I actually had a strong hope that I would not win. I love teaching. It doesn't pay. (I paid more in taxes as an IT Director than the gross pay I receive now as a teacher.) But there is a reward in getting nearly every one of my students to pass the SOL this year. There are students that I tutored long into the evening, and other I came early to help in the mornings. And when I see those students passing what they thought they would not pass, it makes my day, week, month and year! I am sure that if things were different, I would be back to IT in a heart beat, but as it is, as long as I can stand the negative cash flow of being in teaching, I will. (I'm hoping that the increases in my taxes will eventually stop outpacing the yearly increases in salary, and that could eventually make it a "break even" proposition.)
Money is fun to have, seeing a student grasp a difficult concept (that is, seeing "the light bulb go on") is truly rewarding.

While that is true, I also understand that I'm the exception. Not many of the teachers I meet are converts from industry. Few in fact. I've not met any successful industry "convert" that wasn't dedicated to teaching. Having pay related to subject has been done in some areas, and from what I understand, it has had success. That said, I am still in a place where I'm paying forward what was given me, and more satisfied doing it than what the obvious lack of money would explain.

-- Brian Withnell

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3 Comments

Jack said:

Since Brian's comment has been made into a post, I will copy my reply here also:

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Brian:

I, too, have been a teacher. There is no doubt it can be rewarding. But for some teachers, those intangible rewards are not worth putting in the extra time to work with students outside the classroom. If another teacher, teaching the same class as you, just did the minimum, got 80% of his students through the SOL, and then got the same raise you did, wouldn't you be just a little ticked?

On the flip side, if he saw you get a bigger raise than he, is there not a chance he might put in the extra time next year to get all of his students through?

Do we not owe that to his students?

Jack said:

Also, in regard to a pastor's pay, you really think a pastor in charge of a large church, doing several services a week, plus visitations and special services (burials and marriages), should be paid the same as the pastor of a small church, who has one service a week and who has the time to take other work to support his family?

Fortunately, that is not the case. In most cases, the vestry decides how much the pastors make.

Jack,
I truly do believe that a pastor is a pastor not because it is a job, not because of the pay, but because he is called to that by the God who would not allow him to be anything else. That said, I know some churches that treat their pastor as scum and don't pay them a living wage (a horrible thing that I have fought in my own church). But I also believe that a pastor *must* be of the same social/economic scale as the people he shepherds. If he makes more than his congregation's median, he will not be able to know their struggles. If he is paid less, he won't be able to join in the social group to which he is joined.

As to a church with 1000 members, they should not have a single pastor, but at least four (and be moving toward a fifth). By paying what the median income of the congregation, it makes it easy to add another pastor when you get to 250-300 members, and then the pastor isn't overwhelmed with work. The church will function better: the pastor(s) will be better able to visit when needed; they will be able to cover for one another; the church will not be so dependent on a pastor as a man, but will learn to rely on the pastors as shepherds/teachers. It works well. I've been in a church with 1000 every Sunday morning in three services, that had 4 pastors. The pastors are not overworked, and the members are well shepherded.

From the standpoint of teachers, I would certainly approve of a way to measure the improvement of students in the classroom. I certainly would not want direct comparisons of pass rates for a teacher that teaches 12th graders geometry with a teacher that teaches 9th graders geometry (if you are taking geometry in 12th grade, it isn't because you are *really* good at math, but that is the case for 9th grade geometry students.) It is difficult without random assignment of students to know if there is a difference between teachers. But if you tested skills before and after, and randomly assigned students, then I would trust the central limit theorem (for statistics) to even things out in the long run. Obviously, I would not complain.

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