An Assessment of the Impact of Christian Festivals on Pastors’ Financial and Spiritual Lives in Assemblies of God, Ogun State, Nigeria, 2009-2011

Author: Oyeniran, Olusola Charles

Supervisor: Dzurgba

The Assemblies of God (AG) observes Christian festivals, like most other churches, but the economic and religious implications of these festivals for AG‟s pastors differ from these other churches. Existing literature on AG‟s activities during these festivals have focused on their mode of conduct without adequate attention paid to their economic and religious effects on AG‟s clergy. This study, therefore, assessed Christian festivals observed by AG, with a view to determining their economic and religious effects on its pastors in Ogun State, Nigeria. The study was premised on Emile Durkheim‟s functionalist theory, which emphasises the unifying role of religion in making members of the society affirm their common beliefs and values. Sixty parishes were purposively selected from the three AG‟s Districts in Ogun State: Ijebu, Abeokuta and Sango Districts. Quantitative data were obtained through structured interviews of 30 pastors and 40 members, including parishes and Districts‟ Secretaries. Three hundred copies of a questionnaire were administered to ordained pastors, licentiates, exhorters and deacons. Data were subjected to qualitative analysis and percentages. Assemblies of God observed Christmas, Easter and Harvest Thanksgiving festivals. These had financial and spiritual effects on the clergy. Financially, Christmas celebrations often led to the reduction in the salaries of AG‟s pastors whose salaries were determined by the income of the church. Given that cultural ties necessitated mass traveling of members to their hometowns during Christmas, about 32% of its 16,272 members in Ogun State who were non-natives were not available for the celebrations in 2009-2011. This reduced the church‟s income obtained through tithes, which constituted the parishes‟ primary economic strength. Consequently, the average salary of pastors dropped from N20, 000.00 to about N12, 000.00. Similarly, the closure of all parishes on Easter Sunday during a four-day joint Easter retreat accounted for a significant decrease in pastors‟ salaries in 86.7% of the parishes investigated where salaries dropped to about N14,500.00. Conversely, the Harvest Thanksgiving proceeds resulted in economic boom, whereby an average of N23, 000 was received by each pastor. Spiritually, 61.7% of the pastors affirmed that the 2010 Christmas‟ evangelistic outreach invigorated their soul winning passion, and the spiritual calisthenics aura of the 2011 Easter retreat revived 55.0% of them to better prayer and pastoral commitment for their members. Likewise, 48.3% affirmed that the 2011 Harvest Thanksgiving‟s proceeds enabled them to actively demonstrate pure religion through cash assistance to 49 AG widows. Respondents constituting 91.6% advocated for a review of AG‟s pastors‟ remuneration policy, 81.6% suggested intensive evangelization of the natives, 88.3% agreed to symbiotic inclusion of the non-AG needy in Harvest Thanksgiving‟s beneficiaries, while 84.2% opined that subsequent Easter retreat should end before Easter Sunday. Christmas and Easter festivals had negative financial impacts on the pastors of the Assemblies of God who enjoyed some monetary benefits only during thanksgiving celebrations and spiritual renewal during the Easter. There is, therefore, the need for a review of the remuneration policy of the church in order to motivate the pastors for a more committed service to the church