Big bucks, even in bankruptcy

We at GetReligion have had a few stories about the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of problems at the famed Crystal Cathedral since the church filed for bankruptcy.

Some good, some bad.

This post deals with both subjects but has little to do with the substance of the story.

Instead, it focuses on the questions raised by this paragraph toward the end of the story about the church’s efforts to survive bankruptcy restructuring. Reporter Nicole Santa Cruz writes:

A reorganized ministries leadership will be led by CEO Chief Executive Sheila Schuller Coleman, the founder’s daughter, whose salary will be set at just under $70,000 a year. The church will also hire a chief financial officer whose salary will be capped at $300,000 a year and tasked with overseeing revitalization of the church’s revenues.

Come again. The CFO can make how much?

I know they are accustomed to big salaries at Crystal Cathedral, but the fact that the CFO could make that much money is a bit shocking. Talk about a different kind of gospel of wealth.

To be sure, church ministry is an economic market, and the more desired one is, the more money they will command in the open market. (That’s the same argument for why university presidents can make more than half a million.) Maybe Crystal Cathedral needs a big gun running their finance department because only a big gun can work a miracle on their balance sheet and income statements.

But doesn’t that paragraph from the LAT story make you more than a little curious about why Crystal Cathedral could need to pay that much for a CFO? And what the going rate is for a megachurch CFO? And what religious considerations come into play when church officials make that kind of money?

One of the first things I learned when I joined my college paper and started attending journalism conferences was to enterprise stories by not just sourcing them out but sometimes reading them out. This is a perfect example.

Often, a great story will be hiding — in this case, not very well — in a few lines, maybe a few words, of a related story. By simply reading the news, reporters can find stories worth pursuing. Hopefully someone will see what I saw in this story and follow it up with a piece that answered a lot of the questions the LAT story raised about church compensation.


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  • Dan Crawford

    Gosh, when I think the CFO of my parish in PA prepared monthly and yearly financial and parochial reports, attended every vestry meeting, supervised the paying of bills and oversaw our modest investments and savings, and did it gratis, I am wondering what amount of corporate debt requires such an inflated salary. I guess it’s a core element of “POSSIBILITY thinking” and “Be-Happy-Attitudes”. It is surprising that the story does not contain a rationale for the Crystal Cathedral’s need for such a high-salaried employee.

  • Cam Gould

    Any church that has lots of money is not following God. It really is as simple as that.

  • ForTheLoveOfGod

    My informed and educated guess is that this CFO is in total cahoots with the bankruptcy trustee. And, this is how this game will be played the two will have a new cow otter to latch onto.

  • Nevada Retiree

    Retirement is a challenge. Where I live in Nevada, I have chosen to prepare homeowner budgets and to create restaurant business plans to maintain a healthy environment for my mind. I work for $1 per month – this is to insure a fiduciary responsibility for my efforts and maintain a legal recourse for my customers if my numbers are challenged.

    Were I closer to CC, I would do their financial planning for essentially pro bono – $1 per month. The article leaves us with an obvious non sequitor between the compensation of the CEO/Pastor and CFO. What the heck – I think the church needs to go back to more fundamental surroundings. There is a message here – God does not require brick and mortar (glass and steel).

  • http://marlena.j.butlmail.comer@g MJButler

    The CFO is married to a Schuller the wage is in-line with the families penchant for overpaying family members. The CEO/Pastor is also a Schuller and married to the President of the board who also makes more then he deserves, Pastor now can afford to look conservative.

  • John Mohan

    While I can’t suggest Sheila Schuller Coleman is worth a six-figure salary based on her expertise and skill set, I am dismayed that a CFO would be pegged at more than 4 times the value of a senior minister.
    1 Tim 5.17 is pretty clear those who preach/teach are of the highest value to church life therefore should be compensated accordingly.
    $300k for a CFO vrs $70k for the senior pastor shows just how skewed the value of CC have become. I guess extreme debt can do that to you…