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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The "Pastor's Discount"

Dollars3Do you ever ask for the "pastor's discount"?  I ran across this on a message board about a photo store owner a little frazzled due to a pastor asking for a discount.  What do you think?

I did my pastors pics last week. They turned out great. I know the family has enough money, trust me. He wanted to order all 4x6's to take to his family in another state next week, to show them and see if they wanted to order. He asked for a discount on 4x6's if he ordered them all. I gave him half off, reluctantly, knowing he has money, and I dont. (This is my business) Then again, he is coming back to place a large order when he returns home. I know it will be worth it. What if he asks for another discount? I feel dumb NPT giving him one, because he has done a lot for the family, really he has. But his "freebies" were a free sitting on the land of his home (normally $50) and a free 8x10 (normally $15). That was my gift to him. What to do? They are great people, but I have no more sittings scheduled this month, and am layed off for the summer from my job at a school.

Do you ever ask for a 'pastor's discount'?  Do you know some pastors who do?  (I think we've all met a pastor or two in our day that thought he was entitled to a little bit of everything because of his title).  What would you do it you were this store owner?


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June 13, 2006 | Permalink

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I'm so disappointed when I hear things like this. Come on, church - we should be giving to our community, investing in our church's business owners - we are praying for our congregation's success right? So why not be a tool God can use to bless them. I know of a person who had a snowcone stand, and the people from their church would come and ask for free snow cones - 3 or 4 times a day. They eventually had to close down. HMMM, I just can't figure out why society has such a negative perception of the church ...

Posted by: TJ | Jun 13, 2006 10:25:57 AM

I would never ask for or accept a discount. The last thing I would want anyone to think of me as a Christians is that I am cheap! As for the store owner I cannot speak.

Posted by: Will | Jun 13, 2006 10:54:27 AM

I would never ask for a discount unless I knew ahead of time that the company gave pastoral discounts as a policy (some do and the owners are blessed to offer this as a ministry). I am often offered discounts by church members and I always tell them I would rather they tithe to the church which already takes care of my needs. In addition, I never ask a member to perform service for the church in their profession for free or for a discount. Again, I believe the church should expect to pay full price and then let that person decide how best to apply the funds God has provided for him/her.

Posted by: Rich | Jun 13, 2006 11:09:25 AM

While working in the corporate world I regularly got requests for freebies and discounts from Christians who knew me as a Christian business person. Most of the time these were for the purposes of ministry, enabling more to be done with less. As a Christian I always understood these requests and although I couldn't accommodate all of them I was never offended by them. Occasionally I got requests for personal “favors” or discounts or comps from other Christians. These certainly were offensive.

My non-Chrisitan colleagues tended to see these two types of requests as one and the same, thinking Christians are always after something free and not placing a high value on the same kind of kingdom results as we do. This is why it’s important, whenever asking for a discount or something free, that we explain exactly why we are asking and point to results that would be a perceived value for Christians and non-Christians alike (fewer teen pregnancies, welfare to work, drug/alcohol recovery, etc.). And if you can’t make a legitimate ministry case for asking . . . for heavens sake DON’T ASK!!


Posted by: Wendi | Jun 13, 2006 11:22:33 AM

Many businesses offer a variety of discounts (e.g., AAA, AARP/Senior, child, etc.) that are publicized, but not always widely known. I have no problem asking for one of these, or even making a joke like, "Do you offer discounts to high school graduates?" These businesses are usually in the tourism and service industries - hotel, car rental, food service, etc., and have factored such discounts into their cost of doing business.

I don't think I would ever ask for a "ministry discount" unless I had a pretty good reason to believe they normally offered one, as some Christian bookstores do. I also think it would be in poor taste to ask a small business owner - whether in my church or not - for a ministry discount (unless, again, I knew that was a normal part of their business, as Rich suggested).

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 13, 2006 12:04:11 PM

Nope, don't ask for one and don't want one. I am well paid and can pay just as well anyone else can.

Posted by: Kent | Jun 13, 2006 12:34:37 PM

The difference is the perception of feeling entitled or being grateful. I am grateful to pay for a service. Evenif I have very little. Only place I have ever asked for discount is Bible book stores bc they use it to identify pastors as potential "celebrity" endorsement. I would never ask a favor from a parishoner. I will ask God. He knows better who can afford and who is willing to offer. So then I can get a discount and a divine provision. All in the same act. Way cool. Does anyone give a parishoner discount (i.e. no volunteer workers for a week or a day)? It must be a two way street. Maybe preach for free one week?

Posted by: Aaron | Jun 13, 2006 2:49:38 PM

Right off the bat, let me say that Oak Leaf is a church plant that doesn't have much money. There are churches in Georgia starting up wtih 10x more money than we have in the bank. Our budget is a flying joke. Our staff is currently working for free. We aren't rolling in the dough, spending thousands on direct mail or an AV system.

Pastors and church leaders are notorious for looking for handouts. I've known pastors who play the pastor card to try and get a discount on kitchen cabinets for their house. Pastors are somehow entitled to a furniture discount because of their profession? I've heard about pastors who make a big deal about not leaving a 15% gratuity because "10% is good enough for God." When we wonder if a curriculum or product might work for our church, too many of us check out the price tag before thinking through the end result, or...gasp...taking time to pray about it? "How much does it cost" is a great question, but it shouldn't always be our first question.

With this mentality in our leadership, we wonder why Bertha thinks it's a good idea to donate the pee stained couch to the youth ministry. Hey, maybe the kids can use it. Oh really? If it's not good enough for your moth-ball smelling house, then why do you think the church would want it? The reason Bertha thinks that is because she's seen the attitude modeled in her church leaders.

As pastors, we wouldn't want our people sitting in the pews wondering what is the smallest amount of money they could give the church. We don't want our people trying to do Christianity on the cheap, yet we try and do church on the cheap. We would beat ourselves in the head if they started looking for discounts in their tithes, yet getting a discount is often our primary objective when shopping for something for our church.

I posted some of these comments at my blog.

Posted by: michael | Jun 13, 2006 6:19:42 PM

I don't ask for discounts. In fact, I asked a guy in my church to give me a quote on some work I needed done at my house. (Carpentry type stuff.) The price was lower than I anticipated, so I said to him, "Your quote includes labor, right?" His response, was, "Yes, I have to charge for labor." And I quickly responded, "Good, I would expect you to. "

Now, if someone offered me a discount or if I knew a place offered discounts to pastors, I would take it and support the buisness with my regular patronage.

I did hear about a golf course that used to let pastors golf for free on Mondays. They changed their policy once and when a friend of mine asked why, the response was, "When word got out, everybody and their brother was a pastor all of a sudden."

Posted by: Brian | Jun 13, 2006 7:38:36 PM

I think it's tacky to ask. While I've never asked for a discount there have been many times when I've been told that my money wasn't wanted or that someone would like to honor my service to them or their family with a special discount, etc. I suppose I've never thought it was rude to accept these genuine offers of gratitude. (Never a stranger though!)

I do respect those who refuse such treament and I definitely think the person from that forum was dealing with someone pretty rude.

Thanks for the thoughts. I think I have a lot to learn in this area.

Posted by: adam | Jun 13, 2006 8:54:57 PM

When pastors feel they aren't making enough money, they can sometimes begin to feel entitled to a "break." Or perhaps desperate for one. One reason why pastors are trying to get a discount is because they feel like outsiders in their community, who can't really afford to live like other people do. Of course, another reason is pride or a sense of entitlement. But if you have any say in your church, make sure that the pastor feels at home in his community. That's an important starting point.

Posted by: KMS | Jun 13, 2006 9:44:06 PM

Personal discount for professional work by a church member... NO WAY. Very unprofessional. Wouldn't do it to a car dealer who was a member or an insurance broker, probably gets eggs and milk from the grocery store at half price too.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | Jun 13, 2006 10:21:59 PM

Never asked for it but I have accepted when offered by a few. One was a doctor friend who waived his fees and the other was for dental work for our girls. 20% off with no dental insurance was seen as a gift for which we were very grateful.

Posted by: Len | Jun 13, 2006 11:07:19 PM

Let me preface all of this by saying that I do live in an area where the majority of pastors are underpaid and under appreciated. Assistant pastors and worship leaders doubly so. They are usually volunteers (as I am) and encounter varying degrees of appreciation or lack thereof.

For years I worked at a small Christian Retail Store. I have seen it all. Probably half of the people who shopped there were involved in a ministry of one kind or another. Between underpaid pastors, well paid pastors who just expected preferential treatment, multitudes of customers involved in this ministry or that, and a general expectation that because we were a Christian business we should give everything away, it was hard to make ends meet.

(Just as an aside – maybe Christians should try to really support and be a blessing to genuine Christian business people instead of trying to see what they can guilt them out of! I mean, it never occurred to me to go to a brother's place of business and say, “Hey did you see me lead worship Sunday morning? You have no idea how much work it takes to prepare for that - and nobody pays me! How about half price for that break job?”)

It was always amazing though, how many ministers, who had little money, hardly ever (and then only meekly) asked for discounts, hardly ever complained about prices (unless their budget was really stretched or they thought they saw a better price at the discount store) and were genuinely appreciative when we could give them a discount.

Meanwhile, some ministers, who had plenty of money, always demanded a discount, always tried to nickel and dime us to death and were never satisfied - no matter how much we gave them. Masterful manipulators. (Of course I would tend to think that ministry and manipulation would be polar opposites.)

There is a particular local protestant minister down here (he is now nationally known) who inquired about having us order a clerical collar for him. He noticed in his travels that the Catholic priests were often recognized, acknowledged, “comped” and in general just given preferential treatment. He figured that with the collar he could get his fair share!

Human nature – I thought we had slain that ...


Posted by: Todd - Not That Todd | Jun 14, 2006 12:07:04 AM

What should the businessman do? Start looking for another church comes immediately to mind?

I don't have any problem with asking for and receiving non-profit related discounts for the church (Thank You! Adobe). But personal comps and discounts? Wow.


Posted by: Kirk | Jun 14, 2006 10:10:25 AM

As I've read through the comments on this post, several things stand out to me. First, most of us seem to agree that asking for discounts because of our role as a pastor CAN BE (though isn't necessarily) tacky, and that EXPECTING such discounts is even worse.

Second, there is some general agreement that ACCEPTING a discount (and maybe even asking for one) MAY BE okay at a business that you know or reasonably expect offers such discounts as policy.

What concerns me, though, is the air of pride coming through in comments like, "I can pay just like anyone else" or "I don't want people thinking I'm cheap." Do you use coupons at the grocery store? Ever pulled out your AARP card at a restaurant or your AAA card at a hotel? Have you ever bought in bulk for a lower price or used frequent flier miles or...? There are any number of discounts that businesses give as a matter of course and something tells me that if the business offers it, then there's nothing wrong morally or ethically with accepting such a discount. (Please see a follow-up comment here for a sincere, related question.)

That said, know that I am right with the majority of the commenters here in saying that it would be inappropriate to ask for a discount of any type for any reason from a business that doesn't normally offer such discounts.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 14, 2006 2:35:09 PM

Here's a question I'd love some input on:

I'm planning on moving my family 1000 miles away to go to seminary this fall. For a host of reasons, we have had them in a Christian school for the past two years and plan to do the same there. We have some funds set aside for that from their great-grandparents' estate, but we still need to make that stretch (they're in preschool, 2nd, and 6th grades). The school we're looking at offers a discount to people in full-time ministry. My intent is to work in a ministry role part-time while I am at seminary, so between those two "occupations", I will be full-time and then some. Is there anything wrong with asking the school to extend its discount to me?

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 14, 2006 2:42:49 PM

Hi Randy. I think you should ask if your situation would qualify for the discount and then accept the outcome.

I don't think you are asking for a special favor by explianing your intensions to enter into ministry and further your education.

They may look at it the same as full time ministry.

Hope this helps.


Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Jun 14, 2006 3:32:42 PM


My husband says he does not think there is anything wrong with you asking. He just suggests though that in doing so, could you be considered asking for an "exception?" If that were the case, that could potentially open the door for others to think they are due an exception as well for whatever their reasons might be.

From my perspective, you are in full-time ministry already. I could list the reasons, but for the sake of "topic," I won't.

Back to the article: In regards to the store owner, I think we must be careful when thinking we "know" a pastor or whomever in a ministry position has money. Perception is not always reality. That said, neither party should be taken advantage of because of the relationship. Discounts are only bad if done out of wrong motives and/or someone gets taken advantaged of. If you offer a discount once, what would be your real reason for not doing so again? Again, motive. Do not let money come between you and the relationshp. Have a "real" conversation if need be. If you cannot, then, what was your relationship based on?

We accept or decline discounts/freebies graciously when offered depending upon each situation. We do not have a standard one-size fits all policy. There are times when we'd like to decline a discount/freebie, but are told we would be denying someone the blessing of "doing this one thing for us." It is a fine line to walk.

Posted by: Camey | Jun 14, 2006 4:12:02 PM

Wisdom. That is what is needed. In Randy's case, it is a matter of stewardship and negotiation. I don't see a problem with that.

We in the ministry must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I'm naive when it comes to the "pastor's discount" - it does not exist in my mind. I am a retired military man so I do on occasion ask hotels or motels what their discounts are and use that as a matter of stewardship.

As a matter of practice, we as pastors should never ask for a "pastor's discount" but if it is offered we can graciously accept it with the goal of reciprocating by sending business their way.

Bottom line is that one should never even give the appearance of evil.

Posted by: Dan Moore | Jun 14, 2006 6:20:36 PM

Thank you to those who offered feedback on my personal situation. A little more info (intentionally withheld earlier!): the school's discount is a new policy that we asked about initially because we knew a number of other schools that have similar policies. When we explained our situation (attending seminary), we were told to write a letter to the school board and ask about it. I would not be comfortable asking for an exception to policy, but I think it is appropriate to ask if a certain situation might be covered under a policy. The final decision, of course, rests with the school board and we will accept that.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 15, 2006 1:27:14 PM

How about my family's AG Pastor who bought a house DIRT CHEAP from my family and then he got 40,000 dollars worth of FREE labor from church people tearing down walls, rebuilding the interior and putting in a new kitchen and bathroom. What did he then do? He immediately turned around, broke his promise to my family not to sell the house and then tried to sell it for much higher than he bought it for. It really hurt my family because we had given him a very low price because he was a pastor and promised not to sell the house. In the end he didn't sell it. The taxes or fees would be too much since he hasnt lived in it for long enough. I now know that he is only staying it until he can sell it for a premium price and it is people from his church that have been spending countless hours working on it.

Talk about a Pastor's discount!

Posted by: sheepwatch | Jul 9, 2006 8:11:53 PM

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