Most Christian churches don't have a problem disclosing their financial records to whomever asks. Many of them make a point of providing a public record of every cent they give away and how much is spent on materials and staff salaries. Other churches aren't that forthcoming. Like the Mormons, they have pretty tight control over their financial disclosure policies.
Maybe these churches conceal the pastor's salary because it is embarrassingly low. This is definitely the case for many pastors...actually, most pastors. And maybe the churches that don't disclose their pastor's salary do this because it is high. But how high? We'll probably never know, but we do know from his new rims and Dsquared jeans that it's above the poverty line.
There are certain traits that predispose a church to maintaining salary secrecy. If a church:
- is remarkably largethen there is an increased chance you'll have a hard time getting their unabridged financial information. Having these traits doesn't automatically mean they conceal staff salaries, of course. They just help.
- is multi-site
- is touted as one of the "fastest-growing" in America
- has a "lead," "teaching," or "founding" pastor
- is Acts 29
Here is a fun experiment you can try with any church of your choosing. Ask to see their yearly financial report. They will either ignore you or provide you with a Word document. If you receive a document it might have one big number covering all salaries and you have no way of knowing what each staff member is paid, let alone their patriarch. Now here is where it gets interesting. If you inquire further, there's an excellent chance they will bristle and then shame you for asking. Stand strong. Maybe they want to avoid the fate of Anaias and Sapphira, and who could really blame them.
If a church has a tight reign on their spending disclosure, they often claim that their church financial records are accountable to a board of trustees. If you press further, you will likely find that said trustees live out of state and also pastor their own megachurches. What was that? My spidey sense is tingling! Or maybe it was just my imagination. No wait...now the lead pastor is getting into his Escalade and heading home to his gated community. Yeah. That was my spidey sense, all right.
This post originally appeared at Beliefnet, the original post and its comment thread are here.