Options for Revisiting and Reviving Your Clergy Compensation
Below is a method for clergy working with their congregation leadership regarding financial compensation. Many clergy are below synod compensation guidelines (and are very aware of this shortfall). This said, many congregations are not aware of where their pastor’s compensation is compared to guidelines. This method refocuses on synodical guidelines as the central common aspect in determining annual compensation for clergy.
For Clergy Consideration:
Complete and submit to your church leadership your synod’s Guidelines Worksheet for this year. Repeat each year going forward.
Fill out your synod’s guidelines worksheet (found at your synod's website), including specific dollar amounts for compensation variables (such as years of service, ministry context, advanced education, etc.). Submit this to your church financial leadership prior to the beginning of the annual budgeting cycle.
Over time, many congregations are not aware of current synod guidelines but yet have a desire to want to be faithful in compensating their pastor. Completing and submitting this document yearly to the church leadership invites both focused conversation and a mutual understanding of fair compensation expectations. This will also help avoid the “stair-step” approach to compensation some congregations utilize (ex. “We’ll give you ____ percentage change - often chosen at random or sometimes no change”) and instead invites churches to realign their pastor’s compensation with the guidelines of the synod. The synod guidelines are then the tool that informs compensation and guides fair compensation dialogue between churches and their pastor(s).
Why this is Critical:
The synod guidelines are everybody's friend as well as helpful "bad guy." Instead of our debating about compensation, this document will annually lay out the framework for what is appropriate compensation. It helps clergy and church leadership by providing synod authorized salary expectations and it is a great "bad guy" by being the source everyone can dislike, while yet also the common source of authority for what is fair. This takes the place of the notions that sometimes come along of the clergy seeming greedy for wanting too much or the church seeming cheap for wanting to compensate too little. The guidelines are the common source that keeps everyone on the same page.
Beyond just insuring fair compensation for salary, this also affects compensation for retirement and healthcare, as they are often a percentage of the determined defined compensation. Important: At budget time, pastors should fill out this worksheet and submit it to their church leadership EVERY YEAR!
Note: While this article refers to "synods," other church governing bodies could be considered too, such as districts, presbyteries, regions, etc.
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About the Author
Hi, I'm Pastor Andrew, an ELCA pastor with a love for sharing empowering personal stewardship for fellow church leaders. I enjoy researching the financial wisdom of the scriptures and of fellow church leaders and I hope to share my findings in a way to help clergy of all types!