Personal Finance: Pulpit Profits

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, July 15, 2010; 10:35 AM

Should sowing spiritual seeds reap a material harvest?

That's the question two researchers explored in "Is Higher Calling Enough?" The study, lead by two PKs (that's preacher kids) Chris Parson and Jay Hartzell, found that salaries for Oklahoma United Methodist preachers often work like gym memberships: they are based on the number of members they have in their congregation, with greater financial incentives for converting people to their faith.

"In other words, if Goldman Sachs bankers get paid based on profits they earn for the company, why shouldn't preachers get bonuses based on souls saved?" writes Ray Fisman in Almighty Dollar.

The article Fisman wrote for intrigued me. The researchers, whose work was published in the Journal of Labor Economics, found ministers got more money -- albeit not that much -- for each new member added and a pay cut for each member lost. The push for souls also meant some pastors were poaching congregants from other churches.

This is an interesting twist on the pay-for-performance strategy often used for corporate employees and managers.

"It is a reminder that even in circumstances in which one wouldn't expect material rewards to be a motivation, a higher calling may not be enough," Fisman writes.

So what you do you think? Should preachers be compensated for an increase in congregants? Send your responses to and put "Pulpit Profit" in the subject line.

There are Starving Children...

I'm constantly telling my kids not to waste food, often pointing out that there are starving children somewhere in the world. But I should also be chastising myself. I'm a penny pincher for sure, but even I don't make use of all the food that comes into my household.

Sadly, Americans waste 40 percent of their food, according to research by scientists for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Here's a link to read the research titled "The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact."

If you want to stop wasting food, Slate writer Nina Shen Rastogi offers the following suggestions that she culled from readers:

-- Keep track of what you're putting in your fridge, including when the food is slated to expire. "An up-to-date inventory not only prevents you from accidentally re-buying items but can also alert you to what's teetering on the edge of spoilage," Rastogi writes. One reader puts a white board on the fridge and writes down everything that goes into the fridge.

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