Recently, Tony and Michael hosted a live broadcast discussing average youth ministry salaries with Dr. Charlotte McCorquodale from Ministry Training Source (If you missed the original live broadcast, you can watch the video here). It’s no secret that youth ministers do not get adequately compensated for all the things that we do. Unfortunately, most churches cannot afford to pay us what we are actually worth. So what can we do about it? If we can’t get the dollar amount higher, are there other ways we can advocate for ourselves and be compensated to allow us to support ourselves and our families and still do what we love and minister to young people?
Yes. Yes there are. Here are some ideas Dr. McCorquodale shared with us about padding our salary packages.
First off, ask for an evaluation.
If you already work at a parish, ask your pastor for an evaluation. Ideally this should take place once a year, and if you can schedule them more often, quarterly, bi-annually, that’s even better. When you are together, look at a couple factors:
- What are you being paid now?
- What is the value of what you are doing?
- What fruits have come from your labors?
- How has the program grown?
Make sure you are advocating for yourself. Your pastor may not know all that you do or all that you have accomplished. Come prepared to the meeting with information on pay rates of similar positions in the parish and the diocese. Know what the national average is for your area. Be prepared and ask.
Second, be willing to negotiate other options.
So, you spoke with your pastor and the answer is there’s just not money in the budget for a raise. What now? This is not the end of the conversation. There are other things you can offer instead. Come prepared with a list of other expenses you currently are responsible for and ask about help with those. Think of some things like:
- Housing – is there an unused house on church property someone willed to the church you can live in for free or REALLY cheap?
- Cellphone – Do you use your cell for work a lot? Can they cover your contract? Have a church plan? There are also foundations and government subsidies that offer technology funding for non-profit organizations. Could your church apply and qualify?
- Help with childcare – Daycare is expensive. You don’t want to work just to pay for daycare. Can your child go to your church’s school for reduced or even free tuition?
Third, think outside the box.
What else would appeal to you? Sometimes you need to be creative and offer suggestions that maybe are unconventional or often overlooked. Especially when it comes to self-care.
- Paid retreats – you need to make sure your bucket is being filled on a regular basis. In addition to your daily spiritual exercises, ask for a week of paid retreat once a year or maybe multiple long weekends a year.
- Working remotely – your students are in school until at least 3 pm every day. Ask if you really need to be in the office at 9 am, especially if you have to stay until 9 or 10 at night. Ask to work remotely and see what you can work out. Maybe you check in by a specified time and you don’t even have to change outta those PJ pants!
- Vacation time – You do A LOT. You put in A LOT of hours. Would your pastor be willing to negotiate more paid vacation time? Make sure you have a clear idea of how much would would like/need to reconnect with your family and yourself.
Think of other things that are unique to your life that a little assistance with could make all the difference in the world. Again, come prepared, speak up, and ask.
Finally, GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING!
Make sure everything is written down and signed by you and your pastor. You have no idea if leadership could change suddenly or if and when the information is going to get passed down the chain. It would put you in an awful predicament if your pastor left and you had to to go the new guy and say “Well, the last pastor promised me this” without any proof. He wouldn’t be in any way obligated to honor that spoken agreement or even entertain the thought. And you don’t want to be going to the office manager or HR person and say “Why am I still paying for my cell phone? Father said you’d take care of it” and she has NO idea what you’re talking about. Protect yourself.
Again I will remind you that you are your own biggest advocate. No one else understands your needs better than you do. Overcome your fear of the unknown and just ask for what you need. You are worth it.