How do we know how much to pay the secretary? ... or the youth director? ... or the custodian?
In August of each year, the denomination puts together a wonderful "Ministers' Compensation Survey". This publication provides data on the compensation of full-time ordained ministers of the Word. It includes a breakdown of the data to the Classis level, so it's a pretty good tool to look at the compensation level for Christian Reformed ministers within your local geographic area. Each year, at budget time, our pastor-church relations team and our finance team look at this data as part of our process for putting the ministers' compensation budget together. It helps us comply with Church Order Article 15: "Each church through its council shall provide for the proper support of its minister(s)..."
Although there is no Church Order directive with regard to our unordained staff, I think it is wise to "provide for the proper support" and compensation for all of our church staff.
This past year, our council completed a survey for our finance team. The survey provided guidance for different elements of our church general fund budget. Part of the answers found in the survey results stated that we should pay our unordained staff "about the average for the area". It was also commented on that the average (for applicable positions, i.e. secretaries) should be from similar church positions; not business compensation data. That makes sense, I suppose. My task was to find out what the average is for the area. No problem ... I sent out a survey to area churches asking them to (confidentially) provide unordained staff compensation information, with the promise that I would compile the data, de-identify it, and share it with participating churches. I sent the survey out to 46 area CRCs and 12 local non-CRCs. Only 10 churches from our denomination returned a completed survey. Only 2 non-CRCs returned the survey. Most of the non-responding churches did not communicate back as to why they did not participate; I can only guess. A few of the churches contacted me to let me know they would not be participating since their staff compensation was a confidential matter. Even though they were assured that no individual churches would be identified in the survey report, there obviously was not a comfort level with regard to confidentiality. While I was happy to have survey data from 12 churches, I really thought we could have done better.
How do we best get local compensation data for church secretaries, administrative assistants, youth directors, custodians, Kids Hope directors, music directors, and a variety of other very important staff positions at our churches?
I believe that local market data is a great place to start when it comes to determining how much to pay staff. If there is a shortage of good custodians then maybe we will have to raise the compensation level to find the right person to fill the job. Likewise, if there is an abundance of people qualified and willing to be the custodian, then market data might show a lower compensation level for this position. It's only one piece to the puzzle, but wouldn't we, as part of the stewardship process, want to have this piece of information?
One of the reasons the "Ministers' Compensation Survey" gets done so faithfully is because the denominational pension office uses the numbers for the final average salary on which the pension calculations are made each year. The data gets reported -- for good reason! We don't have such an incentive for our unordained staff. So, what suggestions are out there for how to collect good church staff compensation data? Why are churches so hesitant to share salary information, even if confidentiality is guaranteed? Any ideas out there?