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The Cost of Living Crisis – Looking after our people

Photo of Stephen Mathews Stephen Mathews
3 min

In this Cost of Living Crisis, the Church’s focus is rightly on looking outwards, on helping those in our communities who are struggling, of showing the love of Jesus to those in need. However, what about those who represent us, whose role is to ‘care for the flock’? Who is looking out for their needs?

As trustees and leaders, we should make every effort to ensure that our workers are themselves looked after. We can do this in a number of ways:

Looking after our volunteers

  • Looking after our volunteers is an area that is full of risk. You can’t pay or make gifts to those who volunteer because of the work that they do for you - if you do, you risk changing their volunteer status to that of ‘paid workers’, bringing with it all of the associated legal rights, including being paid the National Minimum Wage for every hour worked in the role. So do not make ‘love gifts’ or pay extra allowances.
  • You can, however, make sure that they know they can (and should) reclaim all expenses that they incur because they are volunteering. Historically, many church volunteers don’t claim, and they are not encouraged to do so. Now is the time to make sure that they know they can AND should, and make it easy for them. If they really don’t need the money, they can always gift it back to the church.

Looking after our staff

  • Do review salaries - Staff salaries should be subject to a regular review process. In days of 2-3% inflation, it may not have been critical if this wasn’t thought about. With inflation now high, and no clear sense of what 2023 will bring, it should be a high priority.
    • Have a small team who know it is their responsibility to do this.
    • Consider carefully what changes need to be made and when. At times like these, salaries may need to be reviewed more often than just the annual standard date. (Some have brought forward review dates to 1 January from later in 2023.)
    • Don’t just use CPI or RPI inflation. Think about what is relevant to your situation. This is not just the circumstances of your staff but possibly also local issues. Do bear in mind what sort of increase the church members are likely to be getting. In some sectors, this may be only 1-2% (or even none) and in others it may be more than inflation. This can have a big psychological impact on the workers and the members funding them.
  • Remember debt - This is a hidden and taboo subject in church. Many church leaders and workers have troubling levels of debt and are ashamed to talk to anyone about it. This is true across the country with 42% of UK adults having had to borrow money this year in the face of rising costs (statistic from the Money Charity December 2022).
    • Make sure this is an open subject for your workers.
    • Make sure it is raised with them, not as a question “Do you have debt?”, but as a part of a sensitive conversation.  
    • Make sure they know that if they do have debt and it is troubling them, then they have someone to go to confidentially, either within or outside the church.

The church is to be ‘the light of the world’ and ‘a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden’. Let us be those that care for our own; being thoughtful, alert to the needs of others and good stewards of the resources we are given; both human and monetary.


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Written by

Stephen Mathews

Stephen has been at Stewardship for 15 years, advising churches and Christian charities on a breadth of issues around money, culture and governance. Previous to that, he gained valuable experience working for 20 years in the accountancy profession, alongside church leadership in his spare time.

Stephen is passionate about Local Church, UK Poverty & Debt, and International Aid, with a particular focus on educational development in Africa and in youth violence and racial inequality.