The ministerial lunch meeting

The youth pastor at a local church community has called a lunch meeting at Panera with one of his volunteers, John (a school teacher), to hear about the progress of John’s small group and to thank him for his commitment to the student ministry. In light of this scenario, the youth pastor is obviously going to pay for the entire lunch, as a small token of thanks to John’s countless hours of discipleship. In following departmental guidelines & desire to encourage pastors to relationally connect with people, the youth pastor pays for the meal with his church credit card.

Is this an appropriate use of church dollars, which in turn is provided through the offering of the congregation’s income (including John’s)? If so, how would you justify such spending? If not, why, and what should have the youth pastor done?


~ by Dave Smith on September 7, 2008.

9 Responses to “The ministerial lunch meeting”

  1. Yes. If your church can’t justify taking a key volunteer out to lunch as a thank you, that same church doesn’t deserve to have the volunteer. Investing in volunteer leadership – even something as small as lunch at Panera – is grossly neglected.

  2. I think the youth pastor should obviously pay for the volunteer’s lunch. The bigger question in my mind is whether or not the church should pay for the pastor’s lunch in that situation.

  3. The volunteer already “paid” for it. It might have only been .01% of the actual cost of the meal, but his offering indirectly subsidized the youth pastors budget for such meetings.

    My question – does the youth pastor feel the need to take volunteers out to a meal (lunch or dinner) in order to save money on his grocery budget at home b/c the church pays him such a low salary?

  4. Good question Anthony. That is sometimes the case I would assume.

    I think the bulk of “meal meetings” are just a result of when most pastors can meet with laypeople. The majority of the laypeople have jobs, with only their mornings or lunch times free. After that, they prefer not to have a meeting in the evening or weekend that infringes upon their family time…which is understood.

    Good points as well Ben….Joel, what are some of your preliminary thoughts with your hesitation right now?

  5. Budgets are set for this very reason. I think the bigger issue happens when the youth pastor blows his budget for meals, etc. The budgets are set before the year starts, as long as the youth pastor stays within his range, he should be ok. How much is budgeted might be the bigger question??

  6. The staff member should ALWAYS reach first for the bill (and genuinely intend to pay it). But many times, if financially able, the volunteer will insist on paying. Those volunteers are gold—not because of the $10 they are saving the church, but b/c they are so committed to the mission of the organizaion.

  7. Yea, many volunteers have paid for my lunch for which I am grateful.

    Rich, what are your thoughts on whether the funds should come out of the church budget or not? Is there ever a limit in your opinion as to how much a church should spend on food?

  8. Well, one variable to the above discussion is frequency. Is the “shepherd” (what’s the new word going to be?!!?) meeting with the volunteer once a semester or once a week? I think that has to factor in.

    Absolutely it comes out of the church budget, just as when a salesperson meets with a client for lunch. Is the focus of the lunch to move the organization closer to it’s objective?

    Let’s throw another variable in, just for fun, and you may have to make this another post because we’re probably the only 2 still reading the comments on this post:

    Let’s say both pastor & wife are required for the meeting. Perhaps because the volunteer and his wife both serve and it’s only natural to include them both (why should only the husbands be thanked with a lunch, and why should the wives be left out of strategic discussions?).

    So, the aforementioned youth pastor and his wife take a volunteer couple out for lunch, or more likely, dinner.

    Does the church cover the cost of babysitting for the pastor?

    Keep in mind, this is not a “date,” but a working dinner or lunch.

  9. Hmmmm…that definitely takes it to another level for sure! I definitely know where you stand. :>)

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