When is a story just not a story? When the facts are all put together and there is nothing wrong, that’s when. But today, so much of the media takes an aggregate number, puts it together with erroneous information, and puts the numbers out as fact with no explanation until way into the story, when the damage has already been done in the headline. Case in point: This week, the Daily News went after Rev. Brad Braxton of the Riverside Church for his compensation package. Let’s take a look: He makes $250K a year in salary. He receives a monthly housing allowance, has a full-time maid, gets a travel and professional development allowance and receives tuition for his child in private school. The problem is, the article raises more questions than it bothers to answer. So here is where we need to ask some questions:
How many congregants are there at Riverside Church?
How many employees does the church have?
How many lines of business are at Riverside Church?
What is the annual income of Riverside Church?
How much space does the church encompass?
How many programs are at Riverside?
Does the church have a rectory? Does the pastor’s residence fulfill the functions of same?
Where does Rev. Braxton’s child go to school? More specifically, does she attend the Weekday School, which is part of the Riverside Church?
How does his compensation compare to the compensation of other religious leaders?
Most of us do not know the answers to these questions, and I believe that you cannot judge a person’s compensation if you do not know their job description and responsibilities.
A church like Riverside is a corporation. It has many moving parts and requires considerable amounts of coordination, and you cannot just look at numbers and a title to discern whether someone is making too much money. I do not think it is possible to compare a pastor’s salary today to one 20 years ago, when the church presumably had a smaller scope and different programs. No fair comparisons can be made between the two scenarios, as the Daily News tries to imply.
As for having a housing allowance and a full-time maid, it must be taken into account that the reverend’s home is a place for entertaining and hosting church-related meetings and events and, therefore, needs upkeep. He must travel for the good of the organization, for in any organization, professional development is critical. Everyone knows that churches are run like businesses now and as such, its CEO (reverend) needs to be compensated.
So what is the real question here?