A. Preamble
To advance God’s purposes and to build faithful partnerships between our faith community and its staff, this congregation commits itself to making decisions about staff compensation in ways that will ensure that

  • members and church staff people are cherished as partners and servants of God, and
  • God’s mission flourishes and all areas of the congregation’s ministry thrive.

B. Process
Compensation recommendations should be formulated and revised in small-group settings that allow for careful conversation, adequate research, and respect for the privacy of staff members. This congregation will avoid making major revisions in compensation proposals during the annual meeting or any other congregational meeting.

In this congregation, compensation planning will be conducted on an annual basis in the following manner:

  • The elected congregational body responsible for staff oversight1 will divide itself up into several two-person teams. Each staff member will work with one of these teams. Depending on the total number of staff members, each team may wind up working with more than one staff member. Duties of these teams are described in section C.
  • Each team will, on an annual basis, develop a compensation package for its designated church staff member(s). The timetable for developing this package will depend on how the congregation builds its budget in preparation for the annual meeting. Normally the compensation conversation process should begin at least two months before the proposed budget is given to the congregation for consideration at the annual meeting.

    How compensation packages proposed by teams are subsequently approved will vary from congregation to congregation. Each congregation should spell out which elected groups must approve compensation packages before they are included in the parish budget proposed to the annual meeting.2

C. Compensation Conversation Teams

  1. Each team shall consist of two members of the elected congregational group with responsibility for staff oversight. It is recommended that at least one team member shall have served on a team previously.
  2. Members of each team shall be
    • active, supportive members of the congregation;
    • respected by the congregation and trusted by staff members; and
    • committed to the congregation’s vision for compensation planning.

    It may also be helpful for each team to include at least one member who has experience in compensation planning—for example, participation on a school board or nonprofit agency board.

  3. Members of the teams should be thoroughly acquainted with the synod compensation guidelines. They should, in particular, have a working knowledge of the factors that go into clergy compensation planning.
  4. Team members commit themselves to discretion and, in certain circumstances, strict confidentiality in regard to information learned in conversations with staff members.
  5. Each team will meet at least twice a year with its designated staff member(s)—preferably at a time other than the season when staff persons’ ministries are being reviewed. On the basis of these conversations teams will make compensation proposals for consideration by appropriate elected congregational leadership groups and the annual meeting of the congregation.
    1. The first conversation will be informal and open-ended. Team members will meet for at least one hour with their designated staff person(s). During the first conversation, topics such as these may be considered:
      1. a review of the current compensation package;
      2. a review of the staff person’s ministry (position) description;
      3. consideration of extraordinary financial concerns of the staff person—including educational debt load and obligations to family members, suppliers, and creditors;
      4. consideration of the financial condition and potential of the congregation;
      5. discussion of cost-of-living factors in the community;
      6. comparative statistics on compensation packages for workers with comparable training and responsibilities in the community;
      7. examination of the synod compensation guidelines;
      8. attention to information from the congregation’s staff review process; and
      9. conversation about other factors deemed pertinent by members of the team or the staff member.

      By the end of the initial meeting, the team and staff member should have developed a preliminary compensation proposal for the position for the coming year.

    2. After the first conversation, the team should bring that preliminary proposal before other elected leadership groups in the congregation, in keeping with the process the congregation uses to develop its annual operating budget. Preliminary discussion, but no binding decisions, should take place. On the basis of these contacts, proposed changes in the preliminary proposal may surface.
    3. The team will then schedule a second conversation with its designated staff person(s). This consultation will, in contrast to the first, be more focused and task-oriented. Team members will share with the staff person the reactions of other parish leadership groups to the preliminary proposal, along with any suggested changes. The staff person will be given the opportunity to respond and to offer additional input. The goal of the second conversation is to produce a final compensation proposal that will be
      1. acceptable to the staff person and
      2. capable of winning support from elected congregational leaders.

    4. Once each staff person’s final compensation proposal is determined, team members should be prepared to explain and defend the proposal until it receives all necessary approvals.
    5. Occasionally it may be necessary to amend a staff person’s compensation package in the course of a year. Normally, the same team that worked with the employee in putting together the original compensation package should be involved in the amendment process.

D. Resources
In addition to other helpful materials, the congregation’s personnel committee should have available to it, on an annual basis, the following resources:

  1. The latest issue of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod Compensation and Benefits Guidelines for Clergy, Rostered Lay Leaders, and Other Church Staff.
  2. The latest issue of Compensation Planning for Pastors and Associates in Ministry (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress/ELCA Distribution Service, code 69-2322).
  3. Latest issue of The Compensation Handbook for Church Staff by the Church Law & Tax Report (Matthews, N.C.: Christian Ministry Resources).

1. This group could be the congregation council, executive committee, personnel committee, lay ministry board, or other decision-making body.
2. Out of respect for the privacy of church staff members, the congregation may wish to list compensation items in the parish budget in ways that do not make public the details of an individual’s compensation package. For example, all staff salaries could be totaled and listed together; all staff continuing-education allowances could be totaled and listed together. The council could still provide a means for members of the congregation to have their questions about
details of compensation packages responded to in appropriate ways by designated congregational leaders.