Is your associate worth half as much?

I’ve heard some startling news. It’s common for Associates to get paid half of what their Heads of Staff make. Half. As in 50 percent.

Why? There are only 24 hours in a day, so the HOS can’t possibly be working double the hours. On the other hand, I’ve never met an AP that was doing half the job. Of course, the HOS should be compensated for her/his years of experience, additional degrees, and added responsibilities. But does that add up to a 100 percent increase over the AP’s salary?

I assume that when most churches reconfigure their staffing structure, they have to stretch to get that second clergy, so they go with the minimum salary requirement. Then, the church can’t retain an AP for any respectable length of time (because the msr is too low). The HOS stays and keeps getting increases, while a new AP starts, again, at the msr. So the gulf between the staff positions keeps expanding.

On top of that, each year it’s difficult to just make the church budget. Insurance rates climb, the cost of heat keeps going up, medical benefits escalate, and mission/outreach needs accumulate. As a result, long-term salary planning’s out of the question, and the inequities continue.

Unlike some AP’s, I don’t think that most of the salaries for Heads of Staff are too high. Not at all. Being an HOS is a very difficult job, and the pastor should be compensated for it. I just find that most churches don’t think enough about the comparative pay scale for their staff.

If we’re not careful, our churches will be unintentionally using the mega retail system of employment. You know, many retail stores don’t like to keep their underling staff for too long, because they cost too much after a few years. Some employers deliberately keep the turnover high at the entry level, so they can keep the labor costs low. But the upper management keeps getting pay increases….

The problem is, if we continue this random system in our churches, we will keep having high clergy dropout rates. Especially for younger pastors and women, who most often inhabit AP positions.

Of course, the retail model is a conscious model, and our churches do not often put that much thought into staff salaries and benefits. The increases just sort of happen each year. Our personnel committees usually don’t have any experience in Human Resources, and they’re volunteers. The result is that there’s often a breakdown in our compensation system.

What about your congregation? Do the percentages that the church pays adequately reflect the time and responsibility that the church requires from their staff members? Where are the inconsistencies? Is the secretary being paid more per hour than the AP? Is the AP being paid less than half of the senior’s salary? Are all of the pastors being compensated over the minimum salary for their years of experience and additional education?

One more thing… Is your church having a hard time attracting or keeping a Christian Educator or Youth Director? Well, then they will do well to understand that the law of supply and demand has kicked in–in a big way. The supply is very low out there for these important positions. If you have a good person, you can value them, with your support, encouragement, and a decent salary.


2 thoughts on “Is your associate worth half as much?

  1. Love the post. Love the blog.

    I’ve never had an AP (or been one) so I don’t have personal examples except to share what colleagues tell me.

    Most APs seem to work at least as hard as the HOS, and in many cases the de facto retired (except Sundays) HOS rarely works, except for the high profile moments. Ugh. Maybe we need some kind of Ben & Jerry’s -esque formula. (I don’t have the formula, but they had a calculation that ensured that the lowest paid member of the B&J team was never paid lower than a certain (fairly high) percentage of the CEOs.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, J. That means so much coming from you.

    For those of you who have not checked out A Church for Starving Artists, please do. It’s an every-day, must-read sort of blog. J’s a clergy superstar. She’s always pushing, always asking “what if?” Plus she’s one of the FUNNIEST PEOPLE I HAVE EVER MET. The link’s on my blogroll, and my bookmarks, and my favorites….

    So, back to your comment. I checked out B&J’s top-to-bottom compensation ratio. It was 17 to 1. Now that something to strive for! I don’t have the stats on me, but Wimberly (my HOS) showed me an article on non-profits and what they pay their janitors: it was a whopping $12k.

    I agree, if B&J can have a clear social mission regarding salaries, why not the church?

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