How to Start the Salary Negotiation Process

Tips for approaching conversations about compensation.

Church staff and pastors are often great at dealing with people, but they aren’t always great at dealing with money. That’s especially true when it comes to negotiating their own compensation, says David Fletcher, executive pastor of First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California.

We talked with Fletcher, who is also the founder of—a resource for executive pastors—about how church staff members and pastors can deal with the tricky issue of compensation.

What should church staff members keep in mind when they’re negotiating compensation?

Assess what kind of hiring team you are talking to. Have they never hired a pastor? Or did they hire a pastor or church staffer in the last year? That makes a big difference. They may not know how to talk about compensation, or they may feel awkward about it. So situation awareness is key.

When is the best time to talk about compensation?

After the first interview, check and make sure [you] are all in the same ballpark by asking, “What is the salary range?” If they can’t tell you, then ask if they could have that information for the next call.

Are there certain things to say in the negotiation process that will help?

The words I like to use are: “I work for a nonprofit organization. I am not a nonprofit.” If you want to work [with] me, I want to know if you will take care of me.

How can pastors or church staffers know how much to ask for?

Find out what it is going to take to live in the city where the job is located. Go and look at the publicly posted salaries of schoolteachers. Look for other comparable jobs. Then look at your assets: your degree and experience. Then you can go in thinking, This is what I should be earning in that community.

Any other advice?

Be brave and have the conversation. The worst they can do is not hire you. And who does a church really want to hire? Someone who is brave enough to have the conversation? Or someone who avoids difficult conversations?

Want to learn more about negotiating compensation? Check out this article, and be sure to check out ChurchSalary.

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