One way to do that, according to Miller, is to “have confidence without being arrogant when you ask for a raise.” Don’t hold the church hostage by giving them an ultimatum or threatening to leave if you don’t receive a raise: Miller points out that this kind of attitude creates animosity and strains the relationship between the employee and supervisor.
Finally, regardless of the response, accept a supervisor’s answer with grace, says Fletcher. If their answer is “no,” this may be an appropriate time to consider whether the position is still a good fit for you and if it will meet your financial needs.
What Church Leaders Should Be Doing
Church Compensation Culture
For those handling salaries at the church, increasing compensation for employees rewards hard work and shows they add value to the work of the ministry. To anticipate these kinds of conversations with employees, Fletcher encourages pastors and church leaders to be transparent about staff salaries early. This can be done by creating a minimum and maximum salary range for each position, which allows staff members to have realistic expectations of how much they can earn in a position. Church Law & Tax’s compensation handbook can provide one practical guide for creating salary ranges based on your church’s location and size of attendance.
Fletcher encourages church leaders to consider the worker and the work they do—not their life circumstances—when negotiating a salary. Rewarding employees with a raise based on marital status, because they have a family, or based on gender, e.g., thinking a man should earn more because he’s the “breadwinner,” is not only unfair but likely illegal. Miller explains that these practices are considered archaic to many millennials and can isolate a person in ministry who doesn’t look like a “traditional” person in such a role. “What you’re doing,” says Miller, “is closing the door for opportunity on that person.”
Miller also describes how church employees he works with say they often feel uncomfortable asking for a raise because they feel belittled by a supervisor when doing so. This can make them less likely to ask for a raise again—and maybe even motivated to find a different job. “I hear from people all the time that their boss makes them feel stupid,” said Miller. “[Their manager] make[s] them jump through so many hoops in such a way that it creates an environment of hostility.”
On this note, Fletcher encourages church leaders to be generous with salaries because “the ministry never stops”: work in the church can be time-consuming and demanding.
The High Cost of Employee Turnover
Church administrators and employees should also both be aware of the high costs of replacing an employee. Julie Kantor is the CEO of Twomentor, LLC, a management consulting firm focused on employee hiring and retention. In an article on turnover costs, she cites numerous studies that estimate the cost of replacing even a young (Millennial) employee is anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. Replacement costs are even more for more skilled positions (usually a percentage of the position’s salary), and the true cost is likely higher still when other factors, such as training, are taken into account. Though churches differ from companies, these estimates likely hold fairly steady for churches given that churches must still incur these costs: advertising, interviewing, training, and decreased productivity.