Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Healthy Churches Pay a Healthy Salary!

Reading time: three minutes It’s funny to me that churches often have such a hard time talking about money in general and salaries in particular.  Jesus spoke a great deal about money, treasure and possessions.  Why dollar_signcan’t we? Our Lord taught that our possessions should not own us, but that we should manage them to God’s glory.  I think it glorifies God when professional church workers are paid a decent, honorable salary for the service they perform.  I think it’s a topic worth talking about in every congregation. If I could, I’d ask the lay leaders at every church I visit four important questions.  Wait a minute.  I DO ask every church I visit four questions!  Here they are… 1.  Who studies the District Salary Guidelines for ordained and commissioned workers each year?  That’s the first question I ask of lay leaders when we discuss Financial Wellbeing at our Congregational Wellness Weekends. And I don’t speak another word until I get a response. Fortunately, most times a couple of hands go right up.  Most congregations have at least a few raised_handlay leaders who look at the guidelines. Sometimes there is an awkward shuffling of feet, (and some embarrassed looks on a few faces) until someone mutters, “Well, I know we should look at the guidelines, but…” And occasionally I visit a congregation who says, “What’s that?”  They then get a tutorial from yours truly on where and how to find the recommendations and what I suggest they do with them.  (See question 2). 2. Have you established a “rock bottom” salary floor based on the guidelines below which salaries must not fall? This is the realistic spin on district guidelines.  Only once in my 30 years in parish ministry was I paid the base recommended scale, which did not consider my advanced degree, the large size of the church I was serving or the specialized training I had received before the call.  I know the same is true for most called workers in most districts.  Churches should target a base minimum. 3. Have you made a graph of your ten year trend? Most of our families have endured salary freezes, and many of us have patiently waited for graphmultiple years to see a pay increase.  It’s important for congregational leaders to be fully informed and aware of the burden they are placing on the called workers of the church. Temporary often becomes permanent. 4. Are all workers treated equitably?  A long tenured pastor getting an annual 3% raise will soon race ahead of a newly graduated DCE at the bottom of the scale receiving the same percentage increase.  It’s a matter worth an adjustment. So what can be done at your church?  I’d suggest a couple of things. Bring it up.  If you need to begin with one or two trusted leaders, do so.  A frank, open conversation about an important topic is always a good thing.   A decent income is part of a balanced, healthy life. Pass along the information.  Print out the guidelines and place a copy in strategic leader’s mailboxes with a note, “The District President asked me to share this with you.” Invite a friend.  Maybe your Circuit Visitor would be willing to (on his own initiative) open the conversation with your church leaders.  Ask him to initiate!  Or call me.  I’d be glad to start the conversation. Your generosity, patient and forbearance are honorable.  I have tremendous respect for all who continue on with less than adequate salaries, and we at Grace Place Wellness are trying to help.  God bless you in every way as you continue your faithful, sacrificial service! Thanks for reading. A Congregational Wellness Weekend is designed to help create a ministry environment at your church or school where professional church workers can thrive and serve joyfully in their calling at top capacity. Let’s start the conversation today! Find more information on our website or contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman to learn more.