2 Questions To Help Church Staff Members Ask For A Raise


When Mikhail Baryshnikov, the award-winning Russian-American dancer who many believe to be one of the greatest ballet dancers in history, was asked what was the secret to his success, his response was legendary: 

“The more injuries you get, the smarter you get.”

This example of wisdom through injury is something most church leaders can absolutely identify with, especially those who have ever had to dance around the difficult topic of requesting a pay increase from their church. According to a recent PayScale salary survey, nearly 60 percent of all full-time employees have never asked for a pay raise. In some workplace cultures, a request for an increase in pay, if not approached with the right amount of care and tone, can place an irreplaceable stigma on some as being ungrateful or greedy, which will ultimately create cords of distrust between employees and their direct reports.

And while a number of churches are committed to generously providing their pastors and church staff with some form of end-of-the year bonus, there is a growing number of ministry staff employees who are now in need of considerable pay increases in order to adequately support their families in light of rising healthcare and housing costs. Yet, in the absence of any dedicated or trusted HR personnel or procedures, many church staff members fear that a conversation about pay with their Pastor or direct reports is just too stressful to endure. Or worse, useless to even try. 

With this in mind, here are two helpful questions that can help spark some creative and fruit-bearing conversation around the idea of a pay raise from your church leaders.

1. Are there any goals or objectives that can be set for me that (if reached) would result in an increase of salary?

Starting a conversation about pay around this question will help establish early on that this is not something you simply believe the church "owes" you, but rather something you would like to work towards achieving together. Unfortunately, since a large majority of church employee performance reviews happen at the end of the year, instead of quarterly where progress can be monitored more effectively, few spend the time necessary to establish the benchmarks they want their staff to achieve for the following year. 

When reviews are only focused on interpersonal relationships and individual attributes, they are very difficult to monetize. Tweet: When reviews are only focused on interpersonal relationships, they are very difficult to monetize. https://bit.ly/1QDUhqN @VanderbloemenSG

The same came be true regarding an employee’s tenure or previous successes. However, if there are future objectives that can be discussed that involve an increase of responsibilities, employee and volunteer oversight, and an overall improvement of a ministry program or project, a pay raise is far less difficult to negotiate. 

2. Is it possible to do any salary compensation comparisons with churches our size concerning positions like my own?

One of the biggest mistakes most employees can make when discussing pay raises is not doing any considerable research as to what others within a particular field are currently being paid. Diana Faison, executive coach and partner of the Flynn Health Holt Leadership Group, says that when it comes to the issue of pay raises, “If you don’t prepare, you don’t know what you’re really asking for.” By asking this question, you are demonstrating to your pastor or direct report that your request is not simply about earning more money, but to insure that what you are seeking will not be unrealistic or unreasonable. 

While it is worthwhile for employees to do their own fair share of research, the value for churches to seek out independent consultation regarding their own salary grades and staff benefit structure can be immeasurable.

In partnership with Leadership Network, Vanderbloemen Search Group has the largest database of church salaries in the world, and helps provide churches with salary recommendations from senior, associate and executive pastor positions to those involving children and worship. Learn more about our team's compensation consultations here.

Whether your church decides to do their own research or not, asking this question may provide you with a snapshot as to how much you can expect to receive, if anything.

As James 4:3 reminds us all, when we as believers ask for anything with the wrong motives, bad things are sure to follow. However, there are times when we feel that we have gone as far as we can possibly go, especially concerning our own salaries, without making "the ask."

Just remember that staff negotiations are a divine dance. Do all you can to handle yours injury free.

What steps will you be taking to assess your current compensation?

If you liked this, you'll also enjoy How To Effectively Ask For A Raise.

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