What does this mean for churches and their employees? For church leadership, it means that, at least from a financial perspective, it may cost less money to give an employee a raise than to replace an employee who leaves over inadequate pay, especially if the raise the employee is asking for is a modest one. Every church culture is different, but for church employees, it means that if your church leadership is aware of the high cost of replacing you, they may be more willing to grant you a raise than you think.
Volunteers and the Employees Who Act Like Them
Church leaders should also be aware of one of the biggest areas that churches can run into legal trouble around salaries: the use of church volunteers. Matt Anthony, a Texas-based attorney who works with non-profits and churches, says churches will often try to cut costs by using volunteers and cautions pastors to make paid positions and volunteer positions clear. “A church employee can be a volunteer, but they can’t be a volunteer in a position in which they’re paid to work,” said Anthony. For example, a youth minister can’t volunteer some of her time to do youth ministry at her employing church. She could, however, volunteer to play music for a service if doing so was outside of her normal job description and duties. He said church employees shouldn’t feel legally obligated to do volunteer work to be eligible for a raise, though church members are often expected to volunteer their time.
“The volunteer aspect should be viewed from the membership perspective and not intermingled with terms or conditions of employment,” he said. “You can see how that can get fairly complicated in the case of an employee who is also a member of the church [that] employ[s] them.”
Whether you’re the employee asking for a raise or the one controlling salaries, approaching issues of compensation with transparency, respect, and sound information is critical.
A checklist for negotiating a raise:
- Know who you should approach for a conversation about your salary
- Ask for the conversation
- Think about the best time to talk your supervisor
- Come prepared with your value in your position
- Know the salaries of employees in similar-sized churches
- Be confident, not arrogant
- Respect your supervisor during the conversation
- Don’t hold your church hostage
- Graciously accept the response
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