As a small church, it can be hard to know what hires to make, and deciding on a salary for those hires can make the decision-making process even more intricate.
No one enters ministry to get rich, but even pastors have to factor in pay and benefits when considering a role. I have laid out six compensation factors to consider while you are navigating how to set a church salaries that honors both the organization and the candidate.

Deliberate on the role itself

A candidate’s financial needs can be a strong factor in their job search process. However, a candidate’s needs should not dictate an expectation that they presume the church will pay for. The responsibilities of the role should determine the range of suitable compensation in setting church salaries.

For candidates: I encourage you to learn the average salary for your role, in your area and at a church of comparable size. This will give you an idea of what might be a fair salary and a good starting point for a conversation about your assigned compensation.

Study the geographic location

In this day and age, it’s easy to do a quick Google search and arrive at what seems to be a reasonable number for compensation. Don’t fall into this trap!

The data you will find online is often a conglomeration of information compiled into one giant average number. Accepting this as the final truth is a disservice to both your organization and your future staff member—both things you want to avoid.

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Instead, examine the data and compare it to your church. Ensure the data is from churches of similar size and budgets, and make sure you adjust the final data for the cost of living.

For candidates: Before you dismiss a salary offer based on numbers alone, check the cost of living in the area against the cost of living where you currently reside. You may find that the salary is much more generous than you originally thought.

Take note of your budget

As a small church, growth should be anticipated for accurate financial forecasting. As your church grows, you will need to move part-time employees to full-time status, and at some point hire more staff.

These moments of growth should be able to be met with celebration, not with stress. The best way to do this is to be extremely familiar with your budget and anticipate financial growth.

Churches have to be good stewards of their finances, and regardless of size, budget is a huge factor in how much a church could offer you for a ministry position.

Take heed of the “extras” 

Working on a church staff is unique for many reasons, one of them being the non-monetary benefits associated with church employment. Pastors are eligible for many unique benefits, including housing allowance, expense budgets, various tax breaks, free lunches, school stipends for children, sabbaticals, and the list goes on.

When assessing appropriate compensation for a pastoral position, these factors must be included. Do your research—determine what your organization offers that is unique and incorporate that into your pay scale.

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For candidates: Beyond your church salaries, are there other benefits that the church is offering to add to your compensation package? For example, some churches have robust health insurance packages with full family benefits, and others choose to offer generous retirement matching programs. Again, don’t look only at the proposed church salaries; take the entire compensation package into account.

Carry out an assessment of the risk of loss

It’s important to assess the risk of loss for your key staff members. For example, how much would you have to pay a new senior pastor if the planter of your church answered a new call? If your children’s ministry pastor left, how much momentum would your church lose overall? You should be asking these kinds of questions to determine pay.

Assess specific ministries’ growth and the overall value they add to your church. The people you determine add more value to your church should be compensated commensurately.

This is also a good place to consider the experience of your staff members. In virtually every career field, increased work experience directly correlates to an increase in pay. Ministry is not immune to this same pay structure. A pastor with 20 years of experience should and will be paid more than a pastor with three years of experience.

For candidates: The scope of your responsibilities in previous roles will have an impact on how much a church will consider paying you. When you bring greater knowledge and expertise to a position, it’s fair to expect that it will be reflected in your compensation.

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 Analyze pay on a regular basis

We all want our church to have the most engaging worship, the most capable pastor, the best children’s programming and so on. We’ve talked a little about how to determine to pay for potential candidates, but the second half of this discussion is how to keep the people you hire.

We write a lot about creating and maintaining contagious office culture, but the truth is pay plays a factor as well. Be proactive about your staff’s compensation. Good employees should be rewarded and reminded of their value. Assess performance and put plans in place to link performance to pay (think raises, bonuses and additional vacation/sabbatical time) at least once a year.

Analyze the industry standards for similar roles in organizations within the size and scope of your church.

Source: William Vanderbloemen