Pastors, Church Admin & Finance
Annual Compensation Review: Support for Pastors?
September 21, 2015
Updated March 14, 2017
8 comments 1068 views
It's time for that uncomfortable conversation again: my compensation. The fact that the finance committee should have this conversation with me seems like an unnecessary nuisance to them. They've already decided what they're going to give me in their finance committee meeting and they don't think they need my input to decide whether it is adequate. They think it's the pastor's particular quirk that he should request an annual review of compensation. The last pastor never did that.
I will be pointing out this question, addressed to the elders, from the Guide for Church Visiting: “Is your level of financial support for the minister appropriate and sufficient? Do you discuss this matter with your minister(s) yearly?” (Emphasis added). It is not my personal quirk, but a legitimate expectation, endorsed by the CRCNA. I will also be making specific use of the Minister's Compensation Survey, for which I am exceedingly grateful.
What I wish I could find would be a bit more from the denomination in support of this practice. Where did this Church Visiting question come from? I can't find anything in the Church Order. Is it backed up in some synodical Acts?
When I enter that room tonight, I will be utterly alone, in more ways than one. I am the only one who can advocate for my family and I hate it. I hate talking about money. But I'm expected to pay for Christian education for my children. I moved from Canada and found myself financially burdened by unbelievable health care expenses. I wish that my denomination would give me a little more support in this regard.
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Thanks, Randy. Quite frankly, I am much relieved not to have that annual conversation any more. In my second to last year of pastoring full-time (and more?), there was no conversation, in fact. Rather the Chair of Finance made a an off-hand comment to me on the way out of another meeting that support staff would be getting a 1% raise, but the pastor none. Budget contributions were down at that point in the year, blah, blah, blah. I was so stunned I couldn't even think bad words.
So, come January when expenses were all paid, turned out there was a $20K (OK, it was Canadian $$) surplus. Whoops, too late to reconsider; the budget was already approved for that year.The $20K went to pay down the mortgage. (Btw, how and why a 30+ year-old congregation still had a large mortgage on its original building always escaped me and most folks simply didn't seem concerned, despite the interest charges accruing.) Not conducive to feeling good about Council. And they didn't get it when I brought up the issue civilly; uncivilly would have been worse, I'm sure.
The next year, a new Personnel and Finance Committee had taken over and a new climate was clearly evident. They were stunned, embarrassed when at "the meeting" I said there'd been no meeting the year before, no raise, no consideration of compensation guidelines. That was corrected and I thanked them.
Still, it makes for unpleasant memories plus temptations to cynicism. So, more power to you. You are NOT alone.
My meeting went quite well, by the way. The expectations in my post reflect what I have often felt, but I was heard and understood in this meeting, and while some measures were below what I expected, others were above the classical average, and I was satisfied that we were at the right place. The important thing for me is that there was some communication, and the respect and understanding that comes from that communication. Also, when I wrote this post rather quickly, I did not specify that what the finance committee thinks is actually my fear or my past perception of what they think, which thankfully did not turn out to be the case... so, if there's a way to edit that, I would like to do that.
Should not local salary be based mostly on local cost of living?
Thanks for writing about this. Being retired it does not affect me in the same way except to say that my 1600 /mo pension is considerably less than fellow Christian school teachers, RCA pastors,and the members of my church employed at Ibm, Savemart, and gov. Employees.
As for your retirement pension. Good advice to save more. I certainly don't see the current CRC pension plan being sufficient in coming decades. I would like to see us move away from a defined benefit pension towards a defined contribution pension system (Like the RCA) to encourage pastors to know more about our own (and our church's) financial matters.
May you continue to experience God's provision in this new phase of life.
As for the annual conversation about finances. I've never had it with either of my congregations. I didn't know it was a thing. When needed I've broached the topic and we've discussed it well, but I think this would be a good thing to implement here. If I had it to do over again, I would negotiate an annual cost of living increase as part of my call. Something to the effect, "Ordinarily the pastor will receive an annual cost of living increase to his total salary (cash and housing). When mutually agreed upon that annual increase may be suspended for up to one year or increased as God leads."
That language helps when there is a significant turnover in council during a pastor's tenure.
Todd, it is definitely a thing. I finally remembered where it comes from. The letter of call.
"We also promise and oblige ourselves to review with you annually in the light of the synodical Ministers’ Compensation Guidelines the adequacy of this compensation prior to the adoption of the church budget."
Thanks Randy. Last year I had to pull out a copy of the Letter of Call to remind them of their obligation. Some were stunned to see that in writing. It did change the previous decision and a raise was given. We need to keep everyone enlightened about their responsibilities. We take it for granted that everyone understands, but with changing council members it has to be brought to their attention. I am thankful for their understanding when they received the information.
Good to have this conversation. I have found that you have to be assertive because committees don't always think logically when it comes to the compensation survey. The survey is from LAST year's salaries and is meant for determining next year's salary. It's not meant to BE next year's salary, but the finance committee in my church doesn't seem to understand that. Because they have always used last year's numbers for the present year, I'm a year behind. If all finance committee's did what mine does, our pastor's salaries would always remain the same. The other issue is that our Classis had an influx of young new pastor's and the average dropped significantly for last year. In my two years in my present charge I've actually been presented with a decrease both years. Go figure!
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