Salary Negotiations for the Hesitant
Little explanation is needed for why this article, published in Leadership in 1987, is a classic. One of the most interesting discoveries from our national survey of pastors (see " The Truth about Debt and Salaries") is that clergy who ask for a raise generally get it. Here's how to ask for one.
Few pastors receive any formal instruction when it comes to hammering out a reasonable pay package. It took me a few hard lessons, but I've learned some principles of negotiation along the way.
My concept of negotiation is simple. I have just two goals: (1) to produce a fair salary, and (2) to avoid any hint of an adversarial relationship with the board. Here are the principles that have helped me reach those goals.
Be honest Since most of us are already striving to develop more open and honest relationships within our congregations, this shouldn't be a problem. But our commitment often gets sabotaged at salary time, undercut by an equally strong hesitancy to talk about money.
Many of us choose to let our distaste for discussing money win out; we keep our feelings inside. We say "Thank you" when we really mean "That's not enough!" The result is often an unfair salary and a dissatisfied pastor.
While it's true that some boards are out to "keep pastors humble," most boards are made up of good people who want nothing more than to serve God faithfully and support their pastor. There is no need to fear being open and honest with such people.
I need to be honest first with my leaders. When I complain to outsiders and friends before I have expressed those same feelings to the board, I am being less than forthright. It's important to know who can and who cannot handle my honest feelings. Openness and honesty does not mean foolishly giving ammunition to those who would hurt me. When faced with a divided board or a one-man thorn in the flesh, it is usually best to share my feelings with some of my more loyal supporters on the board.
However, to be effective, I can't limit my transparency to my best friends. I have to talk to those who actually make the decision. Without an open exchange, pastor and board are left with assumptions and guesswork, a wholly inadequate basis for making decisions.
Create a process The second key principle is to build into the salary-review process adequate time for reflection and feedback.
The best time for helpful feedback comes before, not after, the board has finalized next year's salary. Yet most pastors have no chance to review their proposed package before it is finalized. Instead, their annual salary is set without any opportunity for their input.
Often a weary board decides next year's salary at the tail end of a late-night budget meeting. After the pastor or pastors have been asked to leave the room, the treasurer suggests a salary figure he feels the budget can handle. A brief discussion follows; then the board adopts a figure remarkably close to the treasurer's original proposal.
No wonder many pastors feel frustrated with such ...