How did you negotiate your salary? Maybe you didn’t negotiate anything. Maybe you just accepted exactly what they gave you without asking questions.
Years ago, I was asked by my first church to apply for the youth pastor position, and then they asked my wife and I to fly down to the church and candidate for the position. It was a horrible experience, much like that of a first date. I kept asking the question, “do they like me?”.
On the last day of candidating for this position, the chair of the board handed me a piece of paper with my salary on it. As I looked that that number on a piece of paper, I was shocked. The first thought that came to my mind was, “is that it?”. Awkwardly, I laughed to cut the silence and asked the guy to reconsider. I felt like I was worth more than that. We went back and forth for a few minutes, which felt like forever until we landed on my starting salary. It wasn’t a lot, but it was better than the original number.
Months later, I jumped into a car with a friend of mine, and as we were driving he was complaining about his salary. As we chatted he asked me what I got paid, and I told him. The next moment was horrible. This grown man who had 3 kids shouted out that I was making ten thousand more than him. I was so sorry. At this moment when I was 24 years old, I realized that so many men and women in ministry were being paid nothing.
I stumbled across this post on a youth pastor forum.
But when the youth pastor was asked to clarify, he said it was due to the low salary and the high cost of where he lives. It makes me wonder, what is the starting salary nowadays?
The youth cartel recently published a full-time youth pastor compensation report for 2017(Read about it here). They essentally said that a starting salary starts at around 37,000. Please read the rest of the report, it’s really interesting.
It got me thinking about youth pastors and how they usually sell themselves short. They usually take what is given, and then grumble, complain, and eventually become bitter when they really can’t live on what they are making.
Here are some tips that might help you when negotiating a salary.
Plan for the future. You might be single now, but one day you will have a spouse and kids. You won’t want to rent, you will want to buy a house. You won’t want your wife to work two full-time jobs to support your calling. I am thankful that I negotiated 10 thousand more in my first position. Be honest, and talk about what you can actually live on. I am sure that a family can’t live in a city on 37,000, but you might if you live in the middle of nowhere.
You need to have a plan that is bigger than a year. Envision 10 years.
Know what you are actually worth. What skills are valuable? How can you communicate to your church what you are valued? You need to communicate to a search committee that you are competent and confident, especially right out of the gate. You might not have a ton of experience coming out of Bible College, but you are willing to learn and grow into the position. Being teachable is definitely an asset.
Know what is included. Is your mileage included? Do you get an education allowance each year? Benefits? These are the things that no one talks about, but they are so important. Ask for all this in writing, and if you don’t have any of these, starting asking questions to other youth pastors about what they get. You don’t want to be surprised.
Fight for the next youth worker. My salary in my first position is a gift to the next person. If I can get that number high to be the next youth workers floor that is a win. This isn’t always about you.
How can you think with that in mind?
We have a long way to go. Our salaries have slowly increased, but there is still such a long way ahead of us. We need to have conversations about our ideals, and expectations in our current roles.
You need to be paid what you are worth. It isn’t about another side hustle, but a calling that draws teenagers closer to Jesus. That is worth so much more than we could ever imagine.