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TV Evangelist Salaries and Perks – The Power of Perception

I think one of the issues few talk about is nepotism in the ministry. Certainly, I have two daughters, and nothing would thrill me more than if they followed me into my work. But it’s important to me that they can cut it and are qualified to do the job first. There are some ministries with entire families on the payroll, and many do little or nothing. In fact, there are a few major ministries where families on the payroll is a running joke with employees – not exactly the atmosphere you’d like at an effective organization.

I had one ministry leader tell me to help him mentor his daughter to eventually become the CEO of the ministry. The founder told me that he envisioned her on a 7–8 year training schedule to eventually take over the ministry. But within 6 months they mysteriously announced that the daughter would be taking over the organization immediately. I guess all the “training and mentoring stuff” wasn’t so important after all.

On the flip side, there are children of pastors and ministry leaders doing remarkable jobs, and helping to take their organizations into the future. So this isn’t a black and white issue, and should be evaluated on a case by case basis. Some of the ministry kids out there are brilliant.

Another thing that concerns me is the number of major, national ministry leaders with children who never went to college. Certainly college isn’t for everyone, but I think most people would be surprised at the number of these families who have the financial resources, are exposed to wonderful things, and yet don’t think having their children attend college is a priority. They’re grooming their children to lead a major organization, but don’t feel a college education is important.

Interestingly enough, I don’t see that with pastors. Most successful pastors I know feel that college is a real priority and send their kids to excellent schools. Again – not a black and white thing, but I do find it interesting.

So what’s do be done about all this? Or should we do anything at all?

Here’s what I think:

The current generation of ministry leaders came from an era when “perception” in the mass media wasn’t important. Oral Roberts is a great example. As brilliant as he was, and after all he built in Tulsa, he had little interest in the value of public relations. He never understood why he couldn’t just blurt out anything he felt like God was saying to him to a national TV audience. He didn’t have a real understanding of how the media audience perceives things, and what it could mean for his ministry. Oral wasn’t that uncommon either.

For instance, most ministry leaders of that era, think that the partners are thrilled that their entire family is on the payroll. To an extent that’s true. Ever since the “Humbard Family Singers” days, Christian TV supporters always seemed to like to see families in the ministry. But today’s audiences are different. They want to know someone in charge is qualified to lead, and that’s more important than whether or not it’s a son or daughter.

Can we change the thinking of this generation of leaders? Probably not. It’s the same reason an influential pastor or TV evangelist will make an outrageous statement about some hot button issue, cause an uproar, and then go back and apologize a week later. They’re speaking without realizing the power of perception, and how the audience – both religious and mainstream – will react to their words.

For the most part, they’re all good people, and certainly mean well, but without an understanding of the implications of living in a media driven culture, they’ll continue to shoot themselves in the foot from time to time.

I am encouraged by a new generation of emerging pastors and ministry leaders, who were raised on the media, and realize it’s power. This generation uses movie clips in church, makes pop culture references in sermons, produces short films, and understands how the media works. Things will change, and they’re the vanguard of that change.

The people most would consider crooks are something else altogether. The guys that build entire ministries around money – and how important it is for your success that you give money to them. They flaunt materialism, and have the beach houses and mansions to prove it. Fortunately, these are the guys you’ll rarely see on most legitimate religious TV or radio networks.

Speaking of which, I think the networks themselves should take more responsibility for what’s broadcast on their airwaves. Some networks have created policies to limit fundraising, and that’s another interesting conversation, but at least they’re attempting to take steps to eliminate some of the criticism.


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  1. You have a point Phil. It amazes me the ineptness of some ministry leaders and their inability to understand or even care about perceptions. Unfortunately, when money gets in the way, any care about what people think goes out the window. I do see this go the opposite way as well. I know one ministry leader that is so afraid of what people will think that he has problems raising funds. There needs to be a balance. I hope my son also takes over the family business some day, but my hope is that he acquires through education more capabilities than I ever had! Be blessed.

  2. Successors to any business, or ministry, must be qualified.  There are plenty of examples in the business world where the "kids" get advanced ahead of time in the "grooming" process to be in charge.  There are plenty of examples where ministry kids get the same treatment.  While some ministry kids may lack experience and the skills to lead, we must consider the call on their lives and their heart.  I've been around ministry kids who are called by God to serve side by side with their parents.  Those kids may have lacked the experience necessary to perform the jobs they are doing, but their heart is in the right place, they know then need to learn, and they do.  When they make a mistake, they are quick to realize it and fix it.  On the other hand, I've been around ministry kids who think they are "all that" and haven't a lick of experience doing anything.  They walk around like diva's expecting respect while doing nothing to earn it.  When leading, or grooming to lead, a large organization such as a church or ministry, leadership skills and people skills are crucial.  There is a "ministry" side and a "business" side to every church or ministry.  It's important to know the difference.  Maybe the reason some kids don't do so well is because they should be on the "ministry" side and not the "business" side.

  3. My brother owns an eletrical company and he employs his son. 

     The young man is lazy and takes advantage at every turn. The employees hate him and resent my brother for forcing them to work with the kid.

    But as the owner of the company, my brother has the right to make that call.  It is his company.

    Too many ministry heads have the same feeling about the ministry they started –but it is not the same.  They are non profit.  Wasted money hurts every single donor, not to mention the heart of God.

     I understand their feelings.  I have a small ministry myself and I am spending untold hours getting it going.  Its mine.  But I have to realize that if it grows, it will not be mine.  I don't own it, I just birthed it.

    When a parent ministry leader puts their child on the payroll, they have a duty before God to make sure they are qualified and have paid their dues.  If not, they will fail.  And they will always wonder if they had what it takes to make it on their own.

    A few things would help:

    * College education–even if they don't finish

    * Work for another ministry for a season

    *Work in many areas of the ministry and see it from the ground up.  Be one of the "guys"

    Sadly, board members should really be in a position to step in here, but they rarely do anything but nod their heads.

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