Thursday, July 31, 2014

Paying For Ministries

Clergy finance is a big topic these days, with articles in magazines, blogs, Facebook conversations and more. Seminary and other formation costs can be staggering, student loans are painful, and churches struggle to pay a professional wage. It's a perfect storm.

And yet in many congregations, ministers have the best compensation package. I would love to see a fuller conversation of compensation and financial wellness for all who work in churches. Yes, as a religious educator, I've got an interest here. But it's also about our music directors, administrative staff, sextons--whatever positions make up each congregation. 

Sure, many (but not all) of these folks haven't been to seminary, but that doesn't mean that they aren't carrying student loans, or that they don't have their own formation expenses which may or may not have been covered by a congregation. And with no faith requirement in most of these positions*, we cannot be expecting a vow of poverty. 

Pragmatically, retaining trained quality staff is critical to the stability of our congregations. 

Theologically, economic justice needs to be practiced in our houses of worship.

The Unitarian Universalist Association's Office of Church Staff Finances has done considerable work. Fair compensation guidelines including not just salary, but parity of benefits, and a full listing of best practices. 
It's a pretty strong list, and the office has different levels of recognition for congregations to strive toward. 

*My experience is with Unitarian Universalist congregations. Other churches/denominations may have a faith statement.

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