FAQs

Big Questions
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Church

Last month we ran a little piece on ministers’ salaries as an April Fools’ joke. Most of you probably caught that because of our reference to the fictional Bible book of Hezekiah. Here’s a legitimate question about ministers’ salaries. No foolin’!

—Ed.

Q Each year our pastor is involved in salary negotiations with the council. This year he was told to “be prepared to haggle on the price.” I think such bartering is awkward and undignified. Is there a better way to come to agreement on issues of compensation?

A The letter of call used by our denomination states, “Knowing that laborers are worthy of their hire, to encourage you in the discharge of your duties and to free you from material need while you are ministering God’s Word to us, [we] promise to pay you. . . . ”

The attitude you describe does not reflect those words and, in my experience, is not common in our denomination, which generally pays its pastors well. Employers know that an adequately compensated employee usually serves with joy and is a productive asset. The same is true in the church.

Congregations that pay as little as they can create an atmosphere that harms the congregation as well as the pastoral family.

Councils can also check with neighboring congregations to make sure their compensation is comparable to other churches in the area. Every year each council receives a Ministers’ Compensation Survey from the denomination. This survey can assist your church in determining fair compensation.

Most councils say, “When our congregation is aware of a need, the finances are always there.” Adequate compensation for the pastor is a significant need that each congregation should meet without haggling.

—George Vander Weit

George Vander Weit is pastor of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Health

Q A few months ago I had a miscarriage. I am still confused and tearful and would like to know more about what happened.

A First, my sincere condolences. Having a miscarriage can be a very difficult experience!

A miscarriage, or “spontaneous abortion,” occurs in 10 to 15 percent of all pregnancies. There are many causes, half of which are due to chromosomal abnormalities. Maternal health problems (increased age, diabetes, infections) as well as smoking or alcohol and drug abuse can also affect the pregnancy. Stress, exercise, or sex do not increase the risk of miscarriage. Abdominal trauma (such as a fall) is rarely a cause.

Whatever the reason, the woman’s body recognizes that there is a major problem with the fetus and “aborts”—creating the associated cramps and bleeding. The diagnosis of a miscarriage is usually made based on the woman’s history, a physical exam, a pregnancy test, and usually an ultrasound.

There are many ways a miscarriage can progress, but generally the medical treatment is observation (as in the case of a “complete abortion”) or a surgical emptying of the uterus (for continuing bleeding or in an “incomplete abortion”).

Your continuing sadness is very understandable—both mother and father go through a grieving process over this loss, although they may express it in different ways.

For some it is difficult to avoid feeling responsible or that this is a punishment. Neither is true. If your sadness or feelings of guilt prevent you from performing normal daily activities or are not lessening with time, please let your friends and family know how you’re feeling, and seek the help of a professional, starting with your doctor or pastor.

—Herman Borkent

Dr. Herman Borkent practices medicine at Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.

Culture

Q I’m a 19-year-old guy with a limited income. Who should pay on a date?

A At first thought, common sense and good manners would suggest that whoever does the asking should do the paying. However, this has clear application only on a first date. Once a couple has been going out for a while, the answer gets murkier.

If a couple finds that over time just one of them is paying for all the movies, meals, and treats, I’d suggest that couple should rethink their habit. If the person who always pays is also the person who always chooses the activity, inequality enters the relationship.

People in relationship care for each other. In dating, that means taking care of each other by respecting the financial costs of doing things together.

Christian gender relations, dating included, should be marked by mutuality and support. Genesis 1 is my touchstone here. God created humans in God’s image, male and female. So what matters is not our gender and the artificial roles based on it, but our humanity and the gracious relationship based on that.

 —Helen Sterk

Dr. Helen Sterk is chair of communicationarts and sciences at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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