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Staff and Salary, Part 2

Key issues in setting the first salary

  • The person’s level of experience
    Consider their level of success and achievement (not years of service). What is their track record? What have they accomplished? In what environment have they found success in ministry? Can they transfer their success to your church culture?
  • The comparable salaries at other churches
    Develop relationships with other churches of your size and similar culture and size of city. Comparing salary ranges is one of the best things you can do. The national salary surveys are helpful, but nothing is as helpful as five to seven churches just like yours to help you set appropriate salary levels.
  • The church’s ability
    At the end of the day, we can be as generous as possible, do our homework, and set reasonable structures, and the church budget can only handle what the budget can handle. This is a reality of the church world. The general rule of thumb (not including church start-ups) that no more than 50% of your budget should be allocated to total compensation (salary and benefits) of all employees.
  • The church’s existing financial structures
    It is tedious work and must be updated every year or so, but developing salary ranges according to levels and categories of employees from interns to senior staff is important. And once you have completed this work, I urge you to stick to the guidelines you developed. This doesn’t mean you are a slave to the structure, they are to serve you, you are not in bondage to the guidelines. But in the overwhelming vast majority of circumstances, you will be wise to stay within the guidelines.

Key issues to consider when increasing a salary

The bottom line is about performance. That’s easy, and few would disagree. The difficult part is measuring performance in a spiritually-oriented culture where changed-lives is the ultimate outcome. That gets tricky, but we must do our best to remember that changed-lives is why we do what we do.

There are dozens of criteria by which you can increase a staff person’s salary. We look at things as subjective as living out the core values to very objective things, such as the ability to recruit and develop new leaders — with a number attached. You will want to develop the list of things that works in your culture. But I want to offer you a general list that is very helpful, one that I have used for many years.

  • The ability to influence people as a spiritual leader for the good of the church
    It is difficult to measure “spirituality” but we can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter. Leadership without Christian values is not what a local church needs. You could hire an amazing leader, but if they are a two week old baby Christian, the influence they would have (though they may get a lot done) is not long term, eternal, Kingdom impact. Personally, I don’t think it’s that hard to measure. I simply ask myself: “Does this staff person’s walk with God fire up other people’s walk with God?” That’s not hard to see. Just ask yourself: “Do the people they influence love and follow Jesus with more passion because they do?” This may be too simple for you, but simple works for me!
  • The ability to organize multiple projects and ministries
    Many people can do one thing well, but most churches don’t have the luxury of staff doing just one thing. Even within specific areas such as a student pastor or worship leader, these staff members must handle many different things at all times. Simply put, the more diversity a staff member can handle the more value they are to the organization. It is true that the larger the church gets the shorter the list gets for a staff member, but it also gets more complex. And therefore the need to handle multiple things at one time will always exist.
  • The ability to solve problems
    Hey, I can get people to point out problems for free, I will pay people who can consistently solve problems! This doesn’t need much explanation, except for one note. A staff member’s ability to solve problems without throwing lots of money at it is a significant skill that should be rewarded.
  • The ability to think creatively
    These people are a pleasure to have on staff and deserve the higher salaries. This one is closely linked to the previous one on solving problems. Some creativity is used to solve problems, and some creativity is invested in new territory waiting to be conquered. Both are worth rewarding! The key is not merely thinking creatively, but the ability to take action based on that creativity in a way that advances the purpose of the church.
  • The ability to see and seize opportunities
    This is where the true leaders rise and shine. They see things that no one else sees and they see it first. The things they “spot” are not about their agenda but for the good of the church, and like the other things I’ve mentioned, you don’t reward only seeing an opportunity, but capitalizing on it in such a way that the church makes progress in its mission.

While this list is not comprehensive, it’s a great place to build from. So, dig in and use whatever of this information helps you. You can fill in the gaps with what is needed to make it work at your church.

Let me close with some key questions you can ask.

Five important questions to ask

  • What is the staff person’s overall value to the church?
  • What is the staff person’s level of productivity?
  • What is the staff person’s level of potential? (Capacity)
  • What is the level of difficulty to replace them?
  • What is the level of staff person’s team play and quality of attitude?


This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland’s free monthly e-newsletter The Pastor’s Coach available at Copyright 2007, INJOY PO Box 2782, Suwanee, GA 30024.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2017

About the Author: Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He is the author of Amplified Leadership: 5 Practices to Establish Influence, Build People, and Impact Others for a Lifetime (Charisma House, 2012), Shoulder To Shoulder Strengthening Your Church By Supporting Your Pastor (Thomas Nelson, 1997), and From a Father's Heart: Letters of Encouragement to Children and Grandchildren (Thomas Nelson, 1999). Twitter: @DanReiland

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