Salary Reform – Part 3


In my last post I named what I think would be the highest hurdle, what would the equal compensation be? But there are other hurdles that would need to be jumped as well.
  1. Would it be one salary for all or would there be increases given because of length of ministry?
  2. Would this be sustainable without huge conference reserves? Not every church right now pays out their apportionment, clergy benefits, and pensions out at 100%. What makes us think that if we removed the salary part of the local church budget that they could and would willingly pay the additional costs to the conference?
  3. Power and control would be taken away from the larger churches who can afford those higher salaries. They could not longer, by giving out such high salaries, guarantee they would receive the ‘best’ ministers in the conference.
  4. Would this truly remove the competition between clergy? I doubt it but it would remove a large chunk of it, since people feel passed over when one of their colleagues gets a ‘better’ appointment sooner with a higher salary.
There are many more hurdles but these are the ones that come to the forefront of my mind. What would you add?

Salary Reform – Part 2

British Methodist Salary Structure

I was able to participate in an special program after graduating seminary that allowed me to take an appointment for a year in the British Methodist Church. I was a pastor in a circuit and was in charge of three churches there. I am not sure if the system has gone through any changes since my coming back, so I can only speak to the year experience I had.
During that time we were paid once a quarter and the check came from the denomination, not the local church(es). The salary seemed decent, not great, but that a person could live on it. I do not know if a person could be the sole income provider for a family of four, but for two newlyweds it seemed okay.
Also, everyone got paid the same, except for two small differences. Those non-ordained clergy received a slightly less salary and those who held Circuit Superintendent positions got paid slightly more. The reason I was told they received slightly more was because of the added paperwork. When I talk about more and less it was only £1000-£2000. (at current rates that is roughly $1600-$3200) difference between the regular ordained salary.
A common salary did not erase all the competition within the ministry. There were appointments that were looked highly upon and others that weren’t (which I learned is why they invited Americans over, to take those less than appealing appointments).
What is intriguing about this type of system is that it does remove the salary away from the appointment process. A $40,000 salary congregation could now receive the leadership and gifts of a $60,000 or even $90,000 minister. It would hypothetically level the playing field in the appointment process.
Here is my catch with this idea, how much would you pay? What would the best salary be? Currently the minimum salary for an Ordained Elder in a full time appointment in my conference is, $38,095. The highest salary in our conference gets paid over $140,000. That is a $102,000 difference between the newly ordained and the “best” or at least highest paid appointment. If my memory serves me right, the average salary for the conference is between $55,000-$60,000.
Does this mean that if we moved to a equal compensation type of plan that ministers would need to get paid that average? Is that too much? Some would say yes. The fact is our minimum salary for a full time ordained elder is only $18,000 more than the poverty line. For a family of four the poverty line is at $22,050. Yes that is $18,000 more but with the cost of our health care plan in our conference (a family of four will be paying over $12,000 a year to be covered by the conference health care) that brings us really close to that poverty line.
It was my impression too that in the British Methodist system many of the spouses worked in order to provide for their family as well. I remember some saying that they could not really make it on the pastor’s salary alone.
If we moved to an equal compensation system what would be the salary? There are a ton of other hurdles that would need to be focused on and answered as well. I will name those in the next post.

Salary Reform – Part 1

The idea of salary reform within the United Methodist Church has been banging around in my head for a while. I am going to take a couple of posts to work through some of it and I would love to know if you agree with my take on it and if anything differs in your conference. I will be referring, in these posts, to how things work here in my conference, the Western North Carolina Conference.

Our current salary structure is that the local church dictates the pastor’s salary. They decide at what level they are willing to pay. That level then dictates what pastor can be sent to their church. Pre-2004, the perception was when a clergy person moved it usually was an increase in salary. Post-2004 it seems different and especially post-2008 and the financial difficulties being felt everywhere. Now lateral moves or decrease in salaries seem to be more of the norm. The Cabinet (Bishop and District Superintendents who make the appointments) do not necessarily have a say on the salary level a church picks. They can help dictate the final salary during a move year but they will never tell a church that can afford a $40,000 appointment to pump it up to $60,000.

The way the current salary structure currently stands it gives off a couple of perceptions.
  1. The worth of the pastor is dictated by the amount of salary received. The best pastors in the conference get paid the most.
  2. Churches that want the best pastors need to increase their salary to a level that will allow them to tap into that type of talent.
  3. Highly paid clergy have the skill set needed to run the churches that pay the high salaries.
  4. The Appointment process seems to be broken down this way, 65% salary, 25% talent and gifts, 10% location.
Have I missed anything or was I over/under dramatic with one of these points? These are the perceptions that our salary structure create. It is the viewpoint of both the churches and the clergy. I am pretty sure this is how it is done in most of the UMC system in the US.
I have experienced the British Methodist System and it has some stark differences. I will be talking about that system in my next post.

Pastor’s Salaries – How much is too much?

Like I stated in my annual conference post, the most heated discussion this year was around the salaries of the cabinet. In the Western North Carolina E-News it was reported the final numbers.

Cabinet salary clarified following change at annual conference: The cabinet salary for 2009 was approved at $97,971 with 18 positions scheduled to earn that salary: 15 district superintendents, assistant to the bishop, director of connectional ministries and conference treasurer. During 2008, 20 staff positions are earning the cabinet salary: 2 have been eliminated from that salary level for 2009. The two positions no longer at the cabinet level salary are the conference secretary and director of congregational development. The annual conference increased the cabinet salary by the December 2007 cost of living (4.08 percent) plus 2 percent for merit. The total increase was 6.08 percent over the current $92,356.

Now, the cabinet doesn’t make the most money in the conferece. There are about 30 other ministers who make equal or more than this salary level within the conference. In our conference there are 15+ ministers who make a six digit salary. As the debate raged at AC I wondered what is a suitable salary? The minium salary for an ordained elder of the conference has for the first time broken the $40,000 mark. It was quoted at AC that the medium salary is around $63,000.

With all this said, I do realize that what is on paper is not what we really get paid. UM pastors are hammerd with taxes, roughly 35%. Rumor has it the IRS has a special section for the “Self-employeed Employees” aka: UM pastors.

How much is too much to get paid to do ministry? I can only talk about the UM system because that is all I know. I am sure there are other ministers out there that get paid more than our highest paid minister…but should they. Can we do ministry and live comfortable at $40K?$50K? $60K? $90K? $150K? When is it too much?