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Staff Pay: What Should You Pay Your Ministry Team?

3 min

The context and concern

The greatest asset that your church has is your ministry team. These are the folk at the cutting edge of much of what goes on in, and through, your church as they lead the church forward. Whilst we readily acknowledge their importance, do we honour them in thinking well about remuneration levels and in communicating well about matters of pay?

This blog comes from a concern that many ministers are undervalued by their churches if value equates to remuneration. Past salary-related surveys suggest that around one-third of churches pay less than the ‘position merits’, which correlates to a similar percentage of church ministers who consider their salary levels to be ‘less than adequate’. We do not believe that this situation has improved. In fact, there is anecdotal evidence that some ministers are taking on debt simply to cover normal living expenses. This is neither honouring nor a good witness.

Trying to set a pay structure for your ministry team that enables them to live to a reasonable standard is not without its issues. There are no readily available comparable pay scales to hand, and even for the larger denominations suggested stipends make little allowance for size or location of church, nor for the skills, experience and qualifications of the incumbent team member. Getting this right may not be straightforward but it is important.

What might you want to think about?

  • Having a robust process that enables you to calculate remuneration levels. Such a process:
    • Removes any salary distortion (positive or negative) as a result of personality;
    • Allows you to respond in broad terms to church members’ questions; and
    • Enables you to say ‘yes’ to the Charity Commission’s annual return question on the subject.
  • Remembering that remuneration is more than just salary
    • Pensions are an important component of remuneration so think about the level of contribution being paid by you, the employer. Is the minimum 3% required under pension auto enrolment sufficient?
    • In addition to salary, some churches may pay living expenses or allowances (but be careful about the tax implications) to supplement a minister’s income.
  • Setting the right remuneration levels
  • Churches are relational places, and ministers operate within that relational structure and so there is a strong argument that it might be unhelpful (perhaps causing some resentment) if a minister’s remuneration is significantly different than the income of the ‘average’ church member.
  • In a team situation, think about pay differentials. Should you pay different salary levels to team members with different roles and levels of responsibility?
  • Benchmarking can prove helpful. Teachers’ salaries or other local pay levels are often used as a benchmark. If teachers’ salary scales are used, remember to match the roles appropriately. Benchmarking a senior pastor’s salary in a large city church against an entry level teacher’s salary is clearly not appropriate.
  • Communicating well
    • Have frequent and open dialogue with members of the ministry team about financial matters.
    • Listen well to the concerns of your ministry team.
    • Explain remuneration decisions face to face.

Conclusion

Getting this right is not easy, but we owe it to our ministry teams to do the best job that we can to pay at levels that:

  • Reflect what the position merits;
  • Provide a reasonable standard of living; and
  • Make the team feel valued.

Helpful links:

Raising the Standard: Transforming the Culture of Money in the Church

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