Our congregation had their annual meeting recently to discuss pastoral salaries. Many folks in the congregation feel the senior pastor is making too much money. When questioned during the congregational meeting, the Personnel committee folks said something like, "We've polled similar churches in our area, and our SP is making a salary in line with the other SPs." But the Personnel committee neglected to mention is that the average years since ordination for the SPs at the other churches is around 20-25. Our SP has less than 7 years experience since ordination.
What do I do with this information? I feel the congregation was misinformed during the annual meeting. Is it my responsibility to bring this up with someone? It is hard not to feel a little resentful that the SP is making so much money, especially because the reasoning behind his high salary is not sound.
The matriarchs (six of them, actually) answered resoundingly:
FULL STOP NOW. Ann, within moments of the question going out this week, responded with, "Danger Will Robinson!" But why, you ask?
Point the first: While experience is one factor in determining compensation, others include retention, inflation and cost-of-living. As Peripatetic Polar Bear notes, "Salary is a complex issue. Factors going into it include not only how long someone has been at a particular place, but also 'how much does it cost to get someone to do this particular job in this particular region?' It may well be that to get someone to take on that particular type of job takes a minimum of X. And your pastor gets that. In most regions, the salary bands are rather narrow. The difference between senior pastor A with 10 years and senior pastor B with 30 years is often slight, though pastor A has only received a 10 percent increase in 10 years, but pastor B has received a 60 percent increase in his 30. It's most likely, actually, that senior pastor A is earning what she deserves, and pastor B is underpaid."
Point the second: But even if it is unfair, injecting yourself into the situation leads to a no-win scenario that you could lose big in.
- PPB: My strong advice to you is to stay out of it. By running interference not only are you discrediting your SP, you're also discrediting the work of a committee of lay volunteers who came up with the budget figures. Neither situation bodes well for a productive, mutually supportive ministry.
- Earthchick: Even if there is reason to think the congregation wasn't fully informed, or fairly informed, of all variables, I think it is unwise and potentially dangerous for you to step forward to inform them. I think it would be very easy for that to be interpreted as your being jealous or resentful (which, as you've indicated, you are). What purpose is served by bringing this up with someone, other than allowing you to vent your resentment and concern to someone within the congregation? There is no way for you to come out of this in a good way. If you bring it to someone's attention, and the congregation decides you are right, the SP is overpaid, then you have helped deal your SP and his family a very difficult blow. If you bring it to someone's attention, and the congregation decides you are wrong, the SP is rightly paid, then you have potentially cast yourself as a malcontent (and potentially made yourself even less content by raising the issue and having the decision still go another way). Unless a colleague is being grossly mistreated or underpaid, I don't think it's appropriate for staff members to meddle in personnel issues that aren't ordinarily their purview.
- St. Casserole: I'm not sure who would benefit from your sharing this information. You step right across the boundary if you tell the congregation that the Senior Pastor, as far as you know, makes more money than area pastors who've served longer. If the congregation wishes to pursue lowering or increasing or researching the SP's salary, they will. I'm concerned that if you participate in this discussion you will be seen as either jealous of the SP's salary or conniving. I'm sure you are neither, but it could be difficult to defend yourself from either label.
- Karen: Chances are high that the Senior Pastor would perceive this as a direct attempt to undermine his/her leadership and the Personnel Committee would perceive this as an "end run" around their work. Neither situation will make your life and work in that congregation a great experience. Plus, you'll want to be careful about throwing too much support (explicit or implicit) to the "we're paying the pastor too much" faction. In my experience, the same folks who get up in the congregational meeting and proclaim, "We are paying our Senior Pastor too much," often go on to ask, "And why do we need a full-time Associate Pastor anyway? Why--back when my children were small we had a volunteer Sunday School Superintendant who did all the same stuff s/he does. It didn't cost us a dime and we had three times as many kids in the Sunday School then as we do now ..." Anyway, proceed with caution.
Now, as for what to do:
Karen says: If you feel that your own compensation is unfair or not in line with your responsibilities and experience, you can certainly take that up with the Personnel Committee directly, or with regional denominational leaders if the Personnel Committee is unresponsive.
Jan says:Can you talk honestly with the personnel chair and share your information? Can you talk with Sr. Pastor about the equity/lack thereof? (less than 7 years out of seminary? Yikes.) Granted, most pastors want to make as much $ as possible, and yet there are some who have a strong sense of fairness a la Ben & Jerry's (where the highest paid ice cream employee never made more than a certain percentage higher than the lowest paid employee.) Does the "Senior Pastor" really have that much more responsibility than other pastors at the church? (Maybe he does.) Does the staff/programming/church truly revolve around the leadership of the SP or is it more like a team in reality? For these answers and more, it sounds like an honest discussion is needed. Your frustration will only add up if you feel unheard/unfairly paid/unappreciated.
Ann says: If you're being approached for information about the relationship between length of service and pay, perhaps you can neutrally suggest that they ask for that information from the judicatory or diocese. And you might want to look into a peer group to talk over what is going on for you. Are you receiving less than comparable salary and benefits? It couldn't hurt to start looking around for something more fulfilling for you, as well.
It's going to be a real challenge to step back from your own emotions on this, but know that we're all pulling and praying for you. After all, that's one of the things our community is best at. And, we're curious as to what other difficult situations we might be able to help our readers with. Send your questions to AskTheMatriarch@gmail.com.