06 April 2010


What is "full time?"
What are others paid for church work; lay or ordained?

These are key questions that bubble up perennially, and especially when budgets are being structured and mutual ministry reviews and performance evaluations are being set up. I've also seen some inquiries along these lines in the NAECED listserve recently. I offer a couple of resources and a few of my own thoughts.

First and foremost I offer Acts of General Convention by way of resolutions regarding The Episcopal Church and her institutions as a workplace. Here are links to the Digital Archives on Principles and Guidelines on Employment Practices  and the Task Force on Employment Policies and Practices. These are resolutions that represent and characterize ongoing efforts in the area of Episcopal employment policy and practice.

Next Matthew Price of Church Pension Group pointed me toward a 2006 Church Compensation Report that has hard data for Lay and Clergy Compensation broken down in many different ways. I encourage you to check out the full report. It can be found on the linked page.

I also encourage you to ineract with our own Episcopal Office for Transition Ministry (formerly Church Deployment Office/CDO). My colleague who serves as the Officer for this area, Tori Duncan, has assured me that lay professionals are under-represented. We all need to sign-in and create/update profiles. We also need to encourage our congregations and dioceses to use this office to post openings and search for potential ministry matches. A lot is happing in the way of updates and upgrades in this office. Please check out the site and contact Tori if you have questions or need help.

Finally I offer a few thoughts of my own from the perspective of 18 years in the youth ministry trenches as a part-timer in a small congregation, to working in more than one parish at a time, to serving as a diocesan staff member. These are my own observations and opinions and do not represent any official pronouncement of any kind. I offer them faithfully, thoughtfully, compassionately, and with hope.

Lay Ministry as a church professional is every bit as much a call to ministry as that of an ordained person. Often the two are in concert. Often they are not. The contexts that are missed in the statistical report referred to above include comparable secular compensation in geographic regions and level of education. One could argue that a seminary education can be assumed for clergy employees, however more and more priests are being formed in contexts other than traditional seminary settings; some are non-stipendiary and unable to be deployed, some have been called to other congregations and receive compensation. These are reasonable factors to consider when discerning salaries and compensation packages.

For youth ministry specifically we are often inadvertantly and ignorantly undercompensated for a number of reasons.
  • Much of our ministry is unseen like communication w/ parents, youth and volunteers
  • The visible ministry looks more like fun than work from the outside - Happening, Mission Trips, Movie Nights, Fund-raising (whee!) :)
  • People question the seriousness of our work and often treat it as proving grounds for ordained ministry rather than a call to lifelong lay ministry
I'm sure you could name more. All of these dynamics set youth ministers up to be paid for far fewer hours than they actually work, and for not being honored with Sabbath Time for rest and renewal or Continuing Education time for professional development and connecting with colleagues.

When negotiating my own contracts I have insisted on a few simple guidelines for myself and my employer:
  • I should be paid more than the average middle or high school teacher in my community - their salary is based on nine months of work, mine is based on 12. Please take into account education and years of experience. I am entitled to pension and health benefits.
  • Overnights do count as hours worked within a week - it is not only time that I am away from my family, it is also time when I am responsible for other peoples' children, their health and well-being, TWENTY-FOUR hours a day from our event beginning to end. I usually take those extra hours as Sabbath time rather than overtime pay, especially if I'm not eligible for additional compensation due to exempt employee status
  • I request two weeks of paid time off for continuing education; those opportunities should be paid by my employer to attend conferences, meetings, or participate in on-line or in-person institutional learning.
  • Negotiate a sabbatical - look to the clergy guidelines in your diocese and request paid time away for sabbatical after a certain number of years served  full-time on a staff. More on this topic later :)
I hope this is helpful information. Most of all, THANK YOU for engaging in this vital ministry. The church is blessed by your gifts and renewed with your passion for evangelizing our young people.



  1. Excellent piece. Informative. Empowering.
    Intriguing point that priests are no longer all seminary trained. In some cases lay youth ministers have more education experience and responsibility.

    Is youth ministry ever a part of a Total Ministry Team? Should be...



    thanks for the digital archives.

  2. Thank you, Susan. And yes, frequently Total and Shared Ministry Teams include commissioned members serving as Youth Ministers, Faith Formation Coordinators, and many other expressions of intentional ministry with and for young people and their parents.
    Happy Easter!