Pastors and Pay: A How-To Guide for Negotiating Your Salary

The Scriptures compel you: Open your mouth and have the conversation.

The salary package shouldn’t be the first thing you talk about. But don’t wait too long. If your first interview and/or visit went well, then you should look for an opportunity in an upcoming conversation to ask about the church’s remuneration.

2. Identify the inconspicuous.

It’s not enough to know what the salary is. You need to know every way in which the church is spending money in order for you to serve as pastor—or ways in which you’ll spend money in order for you to serve as pastor.

That includes some pretty obvious things, like your housing allowance, the use of a parsonage and health insurance. But it also includes the less obvious: retirement; unemployment; disability and life insurance; worker’s compensation; transportation costs; allowances for meals, books, computers, phones and hospitality; conference expenses; schooling for your children; and continuing education.

I am not arguing that every church should provide all these—few can. But as you discuss pastoral remuneration, don’t overlook them. The church might devote a substantial amount of money here, so you need to consider them in your analysis.

And whatever the church does not provide, you need to factor into your own budget.

3. Bake your own pie.

Your temptation will be to take their salary package and slice it according to your anticipated needs: 15 percent for giving, 35 percent for housing and so forth.

I suggest that you work the other way: Draw up your own budget irrespective of the church’s proposed salary. Use a tool like the CNN Cost of Living Calculator to figure out how much housing, groceries, insurance, health care, entertainment, etc. will cost.

While you shouldn’t consider the church’s proposed salary at this point, you should factor in the church’s proposed benefits.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Health insurance demands significant consideration. The church may or may not provide a group plan. If they do not, you need to find out if they plan to provide health insurance, reimburse you for health insurance, or neither. And even if they provide health insurance, you need to find out what costs there will be to you, including things like premiums, copays, deductibles and so forth.

If you’re 25, just leaving seminary, and generally healthy, this may not seem all that important. But if you’re like me—married, with children and a preexisting medical condition—you understand how important this is. Having health insurance could be the difference between providing for your family and going bankrupt.

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Matthew Hoskinson
Matthew Hoskinson was born and reared in the Detroit area and was first drawn to trust Christ as an eight-year-old. In his teenage years the Lord began kindling a desire for pastoral ministry in his heart, a desire that ultimately led to seminary studies in South Carolina and a Ph.D. in Theology. There he met his wife, Kimberly, a native of Ottawa, Illinois. The two were married in 2000 and have since been blessed with four daughters and a son.

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