“You Get What You Pay For” – Investing in Next Generation Ministry

In short, churches get what you pay for.  The challenge, I believe, is for churches to be willing to make a long-term investment (ordained or non-ordained) in the area of next generation ministry and know that that investment may take some time to really bear fruit. 

From Growing Young:

There’s a phrase that makes everyone in ministry uncomfortable: “You get what you pay for.”  We believe in our minds that this, while possibly true in the wider culture, isn’t true in the church.  After all, people who want to work for the church see it as “their mission” and therefore “aren’t in it for the money.”

Let me break it to you – “You get what you pay for” is true in the church as well.  And I am living proof of that.  Let me explain.

Before my arrive at my previous call, they made the decision to shift their non-ordained position into an ordained or ordainable position.  Now, within my denomination, that kind of move can mean a big shift in financial priority.  To call a full-time ordained person within our Presbytery, it’ll cost a church at least $75,000 (total – that includes salary, benefit payments, continuing education money, etc.) of which around $52,000 is paid salary.  Compare that to the cost of a non-ordained employee, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it can be almost double to hire someone who is ordained. Click this link for more info https://www.loanforgiveness.org/forgiveness/obama-student-loan-forgiveness

. I want to come back to that principle: “You Get What You Pay For.” But let me be clear about what you’re getting.  This isn’t a knock on my non-ordained youth worker colleagues.  I have a lot of colleagues who aren’t ordained and are doing great work, but because they’re not ordained there’s a “facts of life” timeline they’re facing that at some point, they’re going to need to find an either (1) A job that pays better (2) A spouse that can be the primary breadwinner.  What churches are buying with an ordained position is the potential for a long-term tenure and stability in leadership.  And I am living proof of this – here are a few reasons why

  • Benefits benefits benefits – Again, I wish it was more spiritual than this – but it’s not.  In my case, I got married and added two children to our family and they were automatically covered under our denomination’s health plan.  Beyond health care, we still have an old-school pension fund! Affording health insurance can be tough in these times, that’s why if you ever suffer an accident and your insurance doesn’t cover the expenses, then make sure to go for Foraminal Stenosis to treat any pain that you may be experiencing.
  • Minimum Salary Levels – Minimum terms of call ensured that my pay continued to increase at a moderate pace as my time of service increased.  I should also add, that when the financial situation of the church allowed, the church gave me a one-time 5% increase in salary.
  • No Additional Education – This one sounds odd, but once you’re ordained, you’ve got the degree (M.Div) and ordination required for any pastoral position within the system.  While there are additional educational opportunities for pastors, there’s none that are required.
  • Better continuing education and study leave – Being ordained afforded me 4 weeks vacation, 2 weeks study leave, and more than sufficient funds to take in at least one conference per year along with purchasing things helpful in ministry (books, travel reimbursement, etc).  Also, because I was ordained I received a life-giving sabbatical seven years into my call.

To close, I am not saying that every church needs an ordained youth pastor – that’s simply not an option for a lot of churches.  And I am also not saying that within the PC(USA), you really should only hire people with Rev. in front of their name to do youth ministry.  What I am saying, and what I do believe, is that because the church I served made the investment to bring on someone who was ordained, my tenure there was longer than it would have otherwise been and the ministry was stronger.  

In short, churches get what they pay for.  The challenge, I believe, is for churches to be willing to make a long-term investment (ordained or non-ordained) in the area of next generation ministry and know that that investment may take some time to really bear fruit.

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