Fair pay for your time: A new pastoral compensation model

By Frank Ramirez

Every five years the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee of the Church of the Brethren is tasked with conducting an in-depth review of guidelines for salaries and benefits for pastors. Committee members Beth Cage, Ray Flagg, Deb Oskin, and Daniel Rudy, along with staff representative Nancy Sollenberger Heishman of the Office of Ministry, have heard from many pastors who felt they were not being fairly compensated as well as from congregations who were feeling guilty about the level of compensation they were offering.

“We are in the third year of a five-year review,” said Cage, chair of the group. “We appreciate the work of our pastors. Seventy-seven percent of our pastors are serving less than fulltime. We needed to reimagine the compensation and working arrangements between pastors and congregations.”

The committee has put together a “Budget to Salary Calculator” that will be introduced at the 2022 Annual Conference, although it is being field tested in one district at this time. Heishman said that the committee believes that every pastor deserves to be fairly compensated, and this tool will calculate how many hours each congregation should expect from their pastor.

Beth Cage reports to the 2021 Annual Conference as chair of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, in this screenshot from the virtual Conference. After the close of this year’s conference, Deb Oskin will assume the role of chair for the committee.

Congregations will be able to use the tool to calculate the maximum cash salary they can offer. Having set 44 hours as a standard weekly work load for a pastor, the number of hours the congregation should expect from their pastor is calculated by entering a number of variables. These include, among others, the pastor’s years of service, insurance requirements, what the scale determines is a fair salary for a fulltime pastor, and the housing situation, adjusted by the pastor’s zip code.

In the example used in the Power Point presentation, it was determined that in a particular case, the pastor should work 36 hours a week, based on what the congregation was offering.

There is additional help for filling out W-2s. The calculator also will help congregations prioritize which pastoral duties they consider most critical, as well as those ministries that can be performed by church members (based on the Brethren concept of the priesthood of all believers), who will be responsible for performing those duties, and what expectations accompany those duties.

Committee members emphasized that this calculator is not designed for evaluating job performance. District offices already have systems for job evaluation in place.

Pastors and congregations will hear more about this tool in the months ahead. A recording of the session will be available online to view for a few more weeks.

— Frank Ramirez pastors Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind.