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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — Raising Prayers

I'm sure feeling the pinch of a budget based on last year's fuel costs, so I winced in sympathy when I saw this week's question, and more so when I saw the matriarchs noting that we still have that glass ceiling and unbalanced scale to contend with:

Every year, my salary is reviewed by the Pastoral Relations Committee with me. The upshot is they leave that discussion with an idea for a recommendation for a raise, or not. I am not at all comfortable with these discussions: I never know how to approach the discussion of my salary and any potential raises. So, do you have any advice?

From Jan, notes about knowing what you're worth:
Salary negotiations are always awkward, but be glad that they address it. I once went over 4 years without even a cost of living adjustment and I was too afraid to speak up.

It's tempting for those of us in small/smallish churches to forgo any increase, even a cost-of-living adjustment, because it seems to mean that Vacation Bible School will not get new craft materials or something if we gain a raise. If we love our churches, we want to make sacrifices for them and not "cost them" enough to negatively impact the ministries of the church.

However—you are one of (if not THE) best asset and tool of ministry. If they value your contribution, they should pay you for that contribution. It negates your ministry and frankly it adversely affects their ability to serve the community if everyone has the attitude that "giving the pastor a raise means giving the education budget no raise." Wrong.

Church consultants say that a congregation should first budget for program: (personnel, outreach, mission, education, etc.) and the last thing to be budgeted should be the utilities, insurance, etc. Believe me, if the heat isn't working someone will come forward to help pay for heat. They won't come forward to pay for new books for the small groups.

You are called to equip others in your congregation to do ministry. You are the minister to ministers, if you will, and that role is so valuable. They should pay you accordingly.

Karen emphasizes "knowing your field":

I think it is helpful to come to these discussions fortified with the knowledge of what salary and benefits are for pastors in positions/churches similar to yours. In my denomination, this info is public knowledge: each year the Presbytery distributes a list of what each church within its borders pays its pastor(s). What are pastors with similar years of experience serving in similarly sized congregations being paid? If what you are being offered is way below average, you can make your case for a raise based partly on sharing this information. If, on the other hand, what you are being offered is average or above average, you may want to hold your fire.

Also FWIW, the Executive Presbyter for my region commented to me the other day that she finds that RevGals are much more hesitant than their male colleagues to be assertive and clear about their expectations in salary/benefit/contract negotiations.

Ann echoes this, but also says to look at the whole package:

Does your judicatory have any guidelines: What are other clergy being paid with similar jobs? Often there are set minimums at least in a diocese or synod or whatever yours is called. It is helpful when an outside group gives some guidance. What are people in your community with similar responsibilities and education being paid? Does your package include housing, mileage, pension, health insurance, etc? "The laborer is worthy of her hire" (it is in the Bible!!) so don't feel you are doing something wrong.

There is a feeling out there that we work for God so should be satisfied with a chicken once a week or some other pittance. The reality is that you have to live as well as work for them and God. An underpaid clergyperson is soon a bitter clergyperson. Women clergy are still paid at a much lower rate than men for the same position. Don't sell yourself out. And don't feel guilty about stating what you are
worth. It is harder for us to talk about money than it is to talk about sex.

....SO, what about the rest of you? This is tricky for laypeople, too! Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences with us in the comments.

Now--believe it or not, Lent is right around the corner. Send your Lent related questions (or any questions about your ministry) to us at!


  1. Definitely lean into the judicatory for suggestions on salary and other compensation. I once had to explain to a call committee that the ELCA did not feel that a 2 week maternity leave was appropriate and that yes, they would have to pay for insurance coverage for my entire family, not just me.

    I think a lot of patterns get set at those initial meetings. So be wise when you are meeting with folks for the first or second time.

    If your judicatory doesn't offer suggested levels for their clergy, definitely talk to colleagues in the area who do have those kinds of charts available to them. They can vary from geographical area, so having one from your locale could be very helpful.

  2. ditto to revhrod. guidelines are essential... and as one pastor said to me 'it's so important for us not to let ourselves be sold out for bottom dollar'... as in to the lowest bidder. that's not ministry. that's cheap, stingy, and a preview of horrible stewardship.

    so stand up for yourself, your gifts, your call! whew...

  3. I am fortunate that my denomination sets stipend level. it is based on a percentage of average weekly earnings - a Government statistic. also housing, car allowance and resource allowance is set. at the beginning of the placment, other allowances can also be agreed, such as supervicon costs and internet costs. the denomination then sets new stipend and travel levels each year.
    All ministers, regardless of education level or years of service have the same stipend conditions. some congregations pay above the stipend level, but not many that I know of.
    Maybe in the conversations before starting a placement you could set the stipend level relative to a state pay scale, or write in an increasing percentage each year. that way you don't have to have the conversation every year. it is just part of the ongoing budget of the congregation.

  4. When I was appointed to this Parish (my first full-time ministry), I asked senior clergy-mentors HOW to go about negotiating stipend (we have a grid, but there's some flex in it). I got really helpful advice--which turned out unnecessary as the Bishop, in making the appointment, set the stipend, having first asked me, "How much do you need and want? Oh heck, no problem, I'll get you that."

  5. This is helpful... I am not that far from finishing...


  6. Do you, and any other staff, if there are any, have one person on your Personnel Committee that you trust, that has been assigned, or you have your own mentor?

    This is done here and it so very helpful for all questions you have, or concerns about how things are going. Time off for study leave, or things that are coming up that concern you in your ministry there, and so on. They are closed mouthed on anything you say! If you work out how to approach something to the committee they help to back that up, but personal things leading to that, need to be kept private, unless you give permission.

    Is that in place for you? A Personnel Committee in a church is, I would hope, different than it might be in the secular world.

    Part of the Personnel committee's 'ministry', if you will, is to care and look out for you, to aid in the work they have all, called you to do with them. Your health and well being is what they are supposed to be taking care of. Salary is a big part of how they do that.

    Cost of living raises I don't see up for discussion, but the natural order of things....a given. If you have a family, or even if not, negotiation on that shouldn't be necessary.

    I agree that you are their best asset and called to help them do their ministry in the world..where they are AND outside themselves.

    Stand up for yourself, in that you feel better inside, and so are able to offer without undercurrents, your best in ministry. Remember God sees no male, or female.

    Prayers in all workings of all people in ministry in standing are within your Calling ...and the Ground of all Being, in which we live and move and have our with you!

  7. I'm one of those "strange" lay
    persons. Our small congregation has a "part-time" pastor. She is
    paid the presbytery minimum. But
    what bothers me is that she works
    far more than half-time. However,
    it is my experience with pastors,
    (and it has been long and intimate)
    that they never work a 40-hour
    week. So how do we come to terms
    with that?


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