Ministerial Entitlements

My thanks to Ezine Articles for this piece by Dennis Diehl. This is so classic and unfortunately true I had to share it. I’m so glad I don’t have a pastor like this anymore!

Ministerial Entitlements – Don’t Let Your Preacher or Church Abuse Your Stewardship
By Dennis Diehl

I knew the moment I saw him come through the door of the hospital he was a minister. He had the right hair, the right suit and the right Bible pinched between his forefinger and thumb, hanging like a six shooter at his side. I could also sense he was gunning for me sitting at the front desk and he had something he needed, because he was “a minister.”

“I’m Pastor so and so from the such and such betchayatobelieve it Baptist Church here in you know where South Klina. Why don’t you have ministerial parking up near the door here?”

Ah those entitlements! Not only are ministers and Priests the only human beings who call or come to the desk and give out their full names, titles, credentials, place of worship and suburb, just sooz you don’t think it is the other guy in town, but they want special parking near the door. It is only after all has been done to recognize this man and his parking needs, that he even begins to ask for where he just might find Mr. or Mrs. so and so, who of course are members of his congregation and need a visit. Most ministers can make that up the elevator and out again in about five minutes from what I have seen.

But first we have to address the parking problem.

“I’m sorry sir,” I say to him not knowing that he has already punched my first button and I am doing all I can not to launch into the standard Steve Martin, “weeeeelllllll, exxxxxcuuuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeee!” I resist and simply say, I agree but that we just don’t have the extra space and we try to save those relatively few spaces for those that can’t walk or breathe. Surely this will stop the conversation and I can look up the sick member and he can be on his way upstairs to visit. But oh no…It will not be that easy.

“I”m a very busy man and I think it is only right that I have a space close to the hospital to park.” he reiterates.

Of course, I agree, even though I don’t I guess, but we just don’t have the space. I am not going to let him park in the firelane and he’s out of luck having just pushed my second button. (I was a pastor for 26 years, so I know how these guys think.) Gathering all my strength and putting on my best most sincere tone for whatever is about to happen, I look him in the eye and say…”I know, it would be nice if we had the room for pastoral parking, but but we simply don’t and I guess…I guesss…(Here it comes with all the courage I can muster,) I guess a good pastor just sometimes has to ask ‘Just Where Would Jesus Park?'”

We stare at each other. I doubt myself. He glares…and walks away! I won!!!! “Please God, don’t let me hear anything from my supervisor!” I never did.

Ministerial Entitlements are something that is in a world of its own creation. It’s a steamy world full of coded messages and expecations on the part of the pastor for the public to pick up on the pucky. In this world, once you pick up on the code and the intent, you are left only with the choice to give into some expectation the pastor has of you for a priviledge, discount, credit or service that you have and he wants. I have friends in the grocery business who have pastors come in and ask for free or discounted food because “I have five children.” Well, that does not work much anymore and we tend to say now that one should have thought about that before having five children.

Businessmen and service providers know well what it means when just before you clean someone’s property, dig a hole, put up a fence for someone who announces to you that “I am a Christian,” or “I am a minister,” in code, it means one of two things. Either I expect you to take that into consideration and charge me less because we are both, no doubt, brothers in Christ, or “I am sure you won’t mind waiting a few weeks to be paid,” which often ends in not ever being paid! I actually know of people who did yard work, were asked, AFTER the fact if they were Christians, and when they said “no”, were told that the owner only hired Christians, and he would not pay them. You see around here it is not the laborer being worthy of his hire, but rather the Christian laborer that is worthy of his hire. The men went down to the curb, and redistributed all the trash back into the yard where they found it and left. It was hilarious. Many around here will tell you that the surest way not to get paid, or not to get paid what you agreed on for the work, is to do the work for someone who, at the start, goes out of their way to announce to you that they are a Christian. Big flashing red light there! If you want to confuse them when they ask what church you go to, and you MUST go to a church, just tell them you are NON-CONDEMNATIONAL. It calms them, and also confuses them but they won’t pursue it.

Ministers, if not careful, expect their members to put on free roofs and paint until sundown being ever grateful that in the heat of the day, the minister’s wife actually came out of the house herself and brought them a cool drink, of water. For lunch, they served the near heat stroked workers pizza and soda to show their deep appreciation. This astounding benefit for a days work came to about a buck a person for services rendered. But someohow the minister convinced them that their blessings for helping him out, at a reduced price, if not almost free, was in heaven from which we earnestly await the Lord’s return. The reason the whole creation groans sometimes for the manisfestations of the sons of God is that maybe then we’ll get paid! It is kinda like giving ten percent of your income to the church because God promises to pour out more blessings than you can stand for doing so, but don’t expect them to necessarily be monetary in nature. That would giving to get which is evil. Just be glad you have an income to give and that will be blessing enough.

And what’s with all the hoopla and adoration that comes when the minister is actually seen helping out with the Church work party! Why does he get special credit for doing what everyone else is also doing on their free time and out of the kindness of their heart, or the fear of not being seen at the work party? Why does the pastor get a special pat on the back for doing what humans do…cut wood, stack wood, split wood, pound nails or paint a wall? Well, because he is the pastor I guess, which is a class of human that normally would not be caught dead doing these things. When they actually do these rather mundane things to help out…it is a miracle from God I suppose. It sure seems to impress the congregation and the minister gets to be a “regular guy,” for a few brief hours. That goes a long way in the world of pastoral entitlements.

I worked early in my career for a pastor that used me most effectively in the ministry. I baby sat his children for days on end while they traveled to see the other pastors. I mowed their lawn, I washed their dog and changed poopey diapers on the babies. Once I left the shower at the YMCA before the chief priest, because it was hot and I was done etc, and he followed me out to call me back in saying that I should never leave before he does as I might miss something important he had to say. That’s when I learned I had buttons that could be pushed and yet I still had an override button to plaster a compliant smile on my face and march right back into the steam! I once got called out for going through the door before them etc. I don’t have an override button anymore! I just have buttons.

Well, the whole thing of ministerial entitlements is rather a slippery and sloopy slope. Many normal and blessed with common sense pastors would never think of such things, but it is the least educated who are the most vociferous in their opinions and seem to be the most demanding in this area of entitlements. Being a “minister” in some parts of the country is one of the last credentials a man can take to himself, complete with perks that granddaddy got when he was a preacher, without actually earning them. Every third male in the Southeast United States believes that he is a “preecher.” If he can read and tell jokes, cultivate the look and yell out what then seems like a “powerful sermon”, which may only be powerful in that it is loud, he wins and qualifies. It is these types that usually harbor an expectation of entitlement and special priviledges as “the minister.” The more educated the man, the more down to earth, realistic and genuine a minister can tend to be. Don’t get me wrong, there are educated narcissists which inflict sheer carnage and destruction upon a local congregation, but I have written of this elsewhere.

It is never wrong to give honor where honor is due, but it is always wrong for a man to expect it just because he is a minister and somehow feels his sacrifice in life is more than anyone elses who has to make a living here on the planet themselves. Here are a few good rules to follow.

1. Never loan money to someone who announces to you that they are “a good Christian.” You’ll probably never see it again.

2. Never allow a good Christian to give you something and “we can work it out later.” You might find you have lost your home and three of your children.

3. Never give a church or minister what you have not got! No use of credit cards to help the church and no taking out of personal loans for the group or local minister, no matter how much you are told “the church” will pay your right back. They won’t and make you feel badly for ever asking to be paid back.

4. Never will your property and resources to your church, unless you have absolutely no one else on the planet to share it with. It is not worth it and it is impossible to undue. Many Churches want members to include the church and make some promise to share with surviving children etc. Don’t do it! People change churches, circumstances and affiliations change over a lifetime and you will have hell to pay in trying to straighten it all out and your survivors never will. Churches I know have left the children of members swinging in the wind with no seeming conscience about the the whole thing.

5. Never give what you have not got. One more time. Never give what you have not got.

6. Never offer to pay for things for the minister, his home or his family that you cannot afford. A man that would allow you to do such a thing should be avoided as a pastor anyway. If the church can’t pay him an adequate salary, don’t offer to make up the differences. It never ends and encourages the minister to not do his part when he could.

7. Be sure that any offer to give freely or at a discount to the church or pastor is YOUR idea first and you have not been goaded, guilted or suggested into it. “Yes I can help,” or “No, I can’t afford it,” go a long way in keeping you out of these weeds.

Of course there are many fine ministers out there who would not behave this way. But those are not the ones that are going to leave you and your family crying behind closed doors.

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