“I resigned a few weeks ago because of the pay factor. I was
doing as much as the pastors who get $30,000. And I was getting
$600. The church leaders admitted I should be paid but never took
an active role in pursuing it. I didn’t ask for a raise because
things looked so bad, and it wasn’t killing me to work as a
volunteer.” — Mary
“I’ve never asked for a raise. I feel like the Lord knows
what I need. If the Lord calls me here, he’ll keep me here.” —
“I’ll never ask for a raise. I’m satisfied. I trust the
leadership of the church to know what they’re doing.” —
“I ask for a raise every year. Twice at this church I’ve
been turned down. I think there’s a misunderstanding of my role as
a non-ordained religious professional.” — Laura
Sound familiar? In a Children’s Ministry Magazine survey, we
asked readers, “Are you underpaid?” Almost half said yes. But fewer
than one-third of those who felt underpaid said they had asked for
Like many children’s workers, you may feel you aren’t given
enough. But the thought of asking for a raise strikes more fear in
your heart than a Sunday morning with no volunteers.
Author Ron Blue, founder and president of a financial planning
firm, says church workers shouldn’t have to ask for raises. “Wage
and salary scales should be in place for different positions in
Christian organizations,” he says.
But if they aren’t and you need to ask for a raise, follow these
1. Timing is everything. Be sensitive to your
church’s financial status. Like other businesses, churches are
struggling financially and downsizing because of the economy. David
Pollock, author of Business Management in the Local Church, says
these times are even tougher for churches because they don’t charge
for their services, and they’re at the mercy of people’s ability to
give. Don’t ask for a raise while your church is in a major
building program or when funds are low.
Do ask for a raise, though, before your church’s annual budget
preparations. This will enable any pay increase to become part of
the planned budget for the coming year.
2. Know what you’re “worth.” From our survey,
salaries ranged from $600 a year for a part-time minister to
$75,000 a year for a co-pastor couple. And the average salary for
full-time children’s workers at the time of the survey was $22,328.
Of course, responsibilities differ, but how can you know what you
can expect to make?
In Church Staff Administration, Leonard Wedel writes, “Churches
must begin comparing salaries with the local professional and labor
markets. [For] too long personnel committees have compared salaries
only with other churches.”
Your salary should be compared to the salaries of other people
in your area who do similar work-both in and out of churches. Look
at job descriptions to compare similar responsibilities. Contact
your Chamber of Commerce to see if it compiles salary surveys.
3. Compile your salary history. Document the
amount of money you’ve earned in your job since you started. It’ll
be helpful for church administrators to see whether your salary has
kept up with cost-of-living increases (XX% is standard for most
businesses). This doesn’t take into account merit raises, but it
will help decision-makers see any inequities in your pay.
4. Know your financial needs. Pollock says
demonstrating need works in a church but not in the corporate
world. To do it, he says, you must prove that you’re using money
“reasonably” and practicing good stewardship. Pollack says to keep
in mind that “one person’s need is not another person’s boat
5. Demonstrate a willingness to work hard. Be
ready to take on additional responsibilities or to remind your
supervisor that you’ve already done so. Also be prepared to
describe what you do during a typical week, especially if you think
your low salary is due to your misunderstood role. Show your
supervisor specific goals you have for the future.
6. Meet with your supervisor. Blue says it’s
best to ask your supervisor for an appointment and to indicate that
you want to discuss your salary. If possible, couple your request
with a performance review. If your supervisor isn’t a
decision-maker in the congregation, ask if someone with
decision-making power can attend the meeting also.
7. Use tact. Blue says your request should be
“bathed in prayer.” Your attitude is more important than the amount
you ask for. “If you’re demanding or disrespectful,” Pollock says,
“you might get the amount you want, but they’ll give it
begrudgingly and might never give you another one.”
Don’t expect to have every raise request granted, even when you
follow the experts’ advice. Blue says any request can be refused
for a lot of very good reasons. By documenting your request and
asking in the right spirit, however, you put the burden on the
leadership to make the decision. “You’ve not manipulated it, forced
it, or demanded it, but you’ve requested it,” he says.
Stephanie Martin is an editorial assistant for CHILDREN’S
FROM VOLUNTEER TO PAID STAFF
If you’re a volunteer and would like to become a paid staffer,
here’s what you need to do.
- Point out the need. “Churches should hire staff when the
laypeople need help,” Pollock says. “And hire staff for kids first
because they can’t plan their own programs.”
- Demonstrate success. Church leadership needs to see that your
work has become a genuine ministry that requires a staff person to
- Determine your salary needs. Pollock says volunteers need to
prove that “their performance of the job takes away from their
livelihood.” Use the information in this article to figure out how
much money you’d like to ask for.