Why don't we know the salary and benefits package of Donald M. Brunson and family at FBC Jacksonville? What is the argument for keeping this information away from common folk? In almost every single area of public life, it is recognized that leadership compensation disclosure is an important aspect of the health of the organization - with the public watching, it makes it difficult for heads of organizations to take for themselves excessive salaries, or to grant special favors to friends and family.
Even our city government knows the importance of salary disclosure. Did you know all employees' salaries within any area of city government are made public? Click here and you can see a searchable database maintained by the Times Union containing the names, position, and salary of all public servants on the public payroll - not just the heads of agencies - EVERYONE'S salary is available.
Most churches don't hide salary information of the pastor and staff from the congregation. The average church of modest size is not afraid for the members to know the salaries of the pastor, as most pastors make about as much or less than their average congregants.
But the mega churches are about the only organization these days that refuses to give any information to its supporters and donors regarding the salary, bonus, and benefits package given to their pastor. Why is this? Of course I don't blame the pastors or the leadership of these mega churches - its primarily the fault of the congregations for not demanding it. City leaders in Jacksonville would probably never vote themselves to disclose all salaries - it is the people who demand such a thing.
What are they afraid of? Why don't we demand that this information be available upon request? If it was public knowledge what the total salary package of the Brunson family was, would it shame our church? Would the average church member still feel comfortable giving God's money to that church? If the church members knew the salary of the pastor, the pastor's wife, the pastor's son would they be embarrassed?
The Brunson's have been here two years. I see that under the leadership of Team Brunson very little has been accomplished that is innovative or new. Other than the depletion of our staff, the hiring of the Brunson family, the renovation of the ground floor for a pastor's suite, the Night to Stand for Israel, and some bylaw changes - and yes we moved the Sunday pm service from 6:00 pm to 6:10 pm - little else has changed. Pretty much the same as it was when the Brunson's arrived. Lots of complaining about people not wanting to change, but what change the pastor is referring to we're not quite sure because not much has changed.
But while our church has been pretty stagnant for the past two years, not so for Team Brunson! What a two year ride its been. Two weeks after arriving in town they accepted a $300,000 land gift from one of our donors, and they immediately began construction on a 6000 sf, 6 bed 4.5 bath house in an exclusive gated community - together with the land its assessed at just over a cool million. While they waited for construction to be completed, they lived rent free in a multi-million dollar condo on the Atlanatic Ocean an hour outside of Jacksonville - rent free of course. Within a year of arriving, their mansion was completed and they were moved from the ocean to the mansion. Not to mention the new pastor suite, and the staff position for their son Trey.
I think its time we know their salaries. I know it won't happen, and people will never demand it. But the people of FBC Jacksonville should demand it. How interesting would it be to have a majority of the congregation withhold the tithe and put a note in the tithe enveleope that says "we want full salary disclosre, then we will return the tithe." I wonder how long it would take? Or would the Brunson's leave before they were willing to have their compensation packages disclosed? This won't happen - the average church member I suppose is quite happy to see their pastor living large - maybe it makes them feel like they are in some way serving God to know they are helping "God's man" and his family live so comfortably.
While we will never know the Brunson's take...at least there are some leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention who do have enough integrity to let the world know what their salary, home allowance, travel allowance, and family salary packages - even the policy of their institution regarding earning of honoraria for outside speaking engagements and travel expenses. Ben Cole sent letters to the presidents of all our graduate seminaries and the majority of them submitted answers to the very detailed questions about how much of God's money makes its way into their pockets and their family member's pockets...not surprisingly, there is one who never responded to not even one single question - Paige Patterson.
You can read Ben Cole's reports on these seminary presidents here: