Ministry isn’t about money, but there are times you need to be smart about getting a raise in children’s ministry. Here’s how.
“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.” — Shawn
“I’ll never ask for a raise. I’m satisfied. I trust the leadership of the church to know what they’re doing.” — Mark
“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 a raise.
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 guidelines:
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 payment.”
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.
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 head it.
- 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.
Stephanie Martin is the former editorial assistant for Children’s Ministry Magazine.
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