DISCUSSING FINANCES BEFORE A CLERGY IS CALLED
The advantage of an interim having a frank and honest discussion with the session, and perhaps with the congregation, about financial realities in a clergy person’s life, is that the first level of the debate/discussion can be held without it impacting the relationship with the new pastor. Financial discussions with respect to salary, etc. are difficult in any family but the ministry is one of those rare situations where that discussion is also held at a community level. Identifying and discussing some of the relevant questions before the new pastor comes can provide a framework for healthier discussions after the pastor arrives.
QUESTIONS TO BE CONSIDERED
With few exceptions, the vocation of a pastor is not a lucrative career. In many cases, especially with small churches, the salary of a pastor is inadequate for maintaining a family. The financial pressures on a pastor with a family can have a negative effect on the health of the family. The discussion might begin by reflecting on how the leadership responded to this issue with previous pastors and then move to how they want to act with respect to the new pastor.
- How can the church leadership have an honest conversation with the pastor about fair compensation?
- Can the session explore with the pastor and a financial planner with knowledge of pastoral issues, how to best structure the pastor’s compensation?
- It is difficult for many pastors to advocate for themselves with respect to salary. Should the pastor have an advocate when the congregation considers his or her salary?
- Can the church provide some meetings with a financial planner for the pastor and spouse to consider how best to manage their situation?
- If the pastor must take an additional job to support the family, how can the leadership interpret the implications of that decision to the congregation?
- As the pastoral salary is determined each year, does someone sit down with pastor and spouse to explain the increase, decrease or additional benefits?
- If the pastor’s spouse also works, does the congregation understand how that affects the pastor’s availability when family responsibilities occur? For example, who care for a sick child when both parents are employed?
- When the pastor’s family includes small children, are there ways to provide childcare from volunteers when church responsibilities seek the presence of both the pastor and spouse?
- Are there some non-financial benefits that might be made available in compensation, eg, loaning a vacation cabin, frequent flyer points, etc.?
- Would the congregation be responsive to a seminar on the faith implications of financial pressures on all families?
DEVELOPING A PLAN FOR HEALTHY CONVERSATION
As you examine these and other issues around finances, can the session develop an initial framework for discussion that will ease the discomfort for healthier discussions in the future?