My First Raise and Why I Turned it Down…how wise and kind shepherds helped a scared young preacher

I’d been at this church about a year. It was my second full-time work. I was twenty-four years old. The elders told me I’d been doing a good job as their preacher and they were going to give me a raise.

The only raise I’d received was when I was twelve years old. I was working at Harber’s Grocery Store in Centerville, Tennessee. They increased my pay for working all day Saturday from $2.25 a day to $2.50 per day.

However, I grew up hearing members talk about preachers who only preached for money. I heard about preachers who were paid too much and drove expensive cars. I heard of preachers who bought too many clothes.

I was scared to talk with elders about money. Every time before when I was asked about what I wanted to be paid to preach for a church, my standard answer was, “I’ve never talked about money, and I’m not going to start now.”

The elders encouraged me to take the raise. They assured me I was working hard and doing a good job. I refused.

My reply: “If I were to take a raise, I’m afraid the members would think I was preaching for money.” My main goal was to please everybody and have no one criticizing me.

A few months later, the elders approached me again: “Jerrie, we have a problem and wonder if you’d help us.”

My response: “Yes. Tell me how I can help you. I’ll be glad to.” My main goal was to please everybody and have no one criticizing me.

They continued. “We’ve had several members ask us if we’ve given you a raise since you came here. Of course, we had to tell them we haven’t. We didn’t tell them you’d turned down a raise. It’d help us if you’d let us give you a little more money each week. Then when members ask us, we could tell them we have. Will you help us?”

Now, I was in a bind. I didn’t want members to think I was preaching for money. I didn’t understand the principle of inflation and that I needed a raise to stay even. But I also wanted to do everything I could to please my elders. I gave in and accepted the raise.

About a year later, when we had our second child without insurance, the elders talked with me. They instructed me to go to the office downtown and join Farm Bureau. They said to enroll in Blue Cross-Blue Shield medical insurance for my family and me. The church would pay for it — $50.00 a month. That was my raise for that year.

Now I was acclimated to raises. I haven’t protested a raise since that time.


  • When you select a young preacher, you get a young, inexperienced preacher. That’s a fact of life. There’s no way any college or preacher training school can deal with every area of ignorance and insecurity of every man who becomes a preacher. Don’t expect forty years of wisdom from a twenty-five-year-old preacher. Accept the opportunity to mold and encourage a servant of God who is being shaped for a lifetime. To paraphrase and appropriate one of David’s statements, “Deal gently with the young man.” That’s what these good brethren did for me.
  • Good shepherds are a great blessing to anyone, including a young and inexperienced preacher. E. E. Holley, Carl Price, and Ed Riadon were helpful to me in many ways. They suggested. They complimented. They corrected. They asked my thoughts on what they were planning for the church. They asked for my input when they had problems. They included me as a member of the leadership team. They expressed appreciation often. Their concern, along with Robert Oglesby, who was appointed a few years later, provided a good model of how good shepherds care for Christians in a congregation, including the preacher and his family.

How have good shepherds encouraged you or how have you as a shepherd encouraged your preacher?

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

10 Responses to “My First Raise and Why I Turned it Down…how wise and kind shepherds helped a scared young preacher

  • As usual, drawing from your own experiences (including your notes from Anon E. Moose) aids you in giving wise advice. I will only tack on this aphorism: he who seeks to please everyone, ends up pleasing no one.

    • Eric,

      I was a slow learner.

      I made some progress after a few years and many bumps in the University of Hard Knocks.

  • Douglas Haught
    5 years ago

    I can remember my mother (preacher’s wife) being upset year after year when my father (preacher) would refuse to take a raise. Finally, after 19 years of preaching at the same location, and as he was getting close to retirement the church said, “well we will have to pay the next preacher xx, so we will give that to you until you retire. He took it, and it made things a lot easier on both of them. I personally have never refused a raise (probably because of my mother), but I do feel pressure to do so, (probably because of the example of my father).

    • Douglas,

      Thank you for sharing your insight.

      This is going on in many congregations and in many preachers’ homes.

      I appreciate you relating your lesson learned and the tensions still there because of your experience.

  • Glenn Holland
    5 years ago

    Even worse than members of a congregation thinking you are being paid too much is…seeing you work a second job (tending a C-Store, driving a school bus) just to make ends meet. Elders, pay at least enough for him to live like the average member in your congregation. And then review it (compensation), often. And encourage him to take every tax advantage possible. Thanks Jerrie!
    been on both sides,
    Glenn Holland

    • Glenn,

      Excellent observations.

      Thank you for being a sensitive and wise shepherd who listens and responds to what you learned from both sides.

      Good advice.

  • Johnny D Lutz
    5 years ago

    Wow Jerrie…….I remember those early years when we were all a lot younger. I appreciate you mentioning those elders by name. They were giants in their day. Respected by all of us. Keep on marchin’.

    • Danny,

      Their influence and encouragement from more than forty years ago is still here.

      Thank you for your encouragement.

  • I am reminded of a well known preacher, but will withhold his name, but the elders called him in and said you are doing a good job and we want to give you a raise, trying to be humble, he replied, but brethren you are already paying me more than I am worth…. after a couple minutes of silence one of the elders said, your family would starve on what you are worth, take the raise…

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