I Deserve A Higher Wage

I Deserve A Higher Wage

I’ve met a considerable number of church staff that have told me they think they should be paid more for their work. Quite often, I’m inclined to agree with them, but the way some go about asking for a higher wage is closer to “demanding” a higher wage, like some in the fast food union are pushing for substantial wage increases. There’s a huge, massive difference in the work of a fast food cashier compared to the demands of vocational ministry work, so I’m not making a comparison to the type of work, but rather the way to talk about wage that isn’t centered around a dollar amount – but, instead, a value proposition.

Someone needs to tell those fast food workers that they may indeed be worth more than minimum wage, but that there are jobs that pay more than fast food chains. It’s not the industry that needs to change, it’s the person’s job that needs to change!

Conversely, there are those in churches that don’t know how to ask for a wage increase, or worse, assume that because it’s “ministry work” that they are somehow exempt from 1 Timothy 5:18.

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18 (NASB)

If a laborer is worthy, then that laborer is worthy of the going rate, not a discounted rate. My personal experience with full time vocational work was that it was harder and more demanding and required more hours than secular employment; if anything, church staff should be paid more given these realities.

1 ) “You’re working for God, so the pay is going to be lower so that we can be ‘good stewards’.”

Good stewardship has less to do with how much money is saved and far more to do with how much money isn’t wasted. Investing in people who are investing in Kingdom work is great stewardship.

If this is the stated position of your church leadership, you’ve got the same choices that non-vocational employees have: stay or leave. Change, of course, is always hard. Prayer and peace from the Lord is the best answer here, but 1 Timothy 5:18 really does apply to you.

2) “I’m paid below industry rates.”

Possibly. There are two schools of thought on this: what do other churches pay for a similar role and what do secular organizations pay for a similar role (or as similar as possible). My friends at Leadership Network put out a large church salary survey every other year and it’s been expanded to cover a much broader variety of roles. As of this writing, it’s possible to be a part of the 2014 Survey (closes May 31, 2014). Just click here. The most recent survey is from 2012. Click here to get it.

The default, leading job tool today is LinkedIn. If you’re not there, you’re not online from a job standpoint. They offer a way to search for jobs based on skill, location, certifications, etc. that help find what employers are paying (a Premium feature on LinkedIn), so you can know how to price yourself in your market. You can sign up for 30 days of free Premium membership, so it doesn’t cost you anything upfront.

Finally, if you’re really interested in looking for a new job at another church, my friend William Vanderbloemen and his team offer world-class job search in the church space.

3) “They don’t understand my value.”

I’ve talked with a lot of “behind the scenes” people at churches, from IT staff to church management administrators to technical arts staff, all of who are in unique roles that are fairly new (even today) for churches. It is incumbent upon you to help your leadership understand the strategic value you (not your position) bring to the church. This is not your day-to-day responsibilities or task list; that’s the job description. Your value is what you, personally, bring to the team in addition to the role.

My best employees were those who were on-mission, committed to healthy relationships and boundaries, and had an ownership mentality, not an employee mentality. These people didn’t fit into pre-determined salary buckets, but stood out as high-value, high capacity individuals who added great value to the organization and were compensated for it. Likewise, I’ve tried to not limit myself to a job description, but instead done my best to bring my best talents, gifts, and strengths to the benefit of the team, not a position. I don’t get the balance right all the time and have to be re-oriented from time to time as a result, but that’s far preferred than finding ways to ensure an employee is being productive.

If you’re not feeling valued, here are three things to do at this very moment. Right now:

– First, submit to the Lord. I’ve asked God for release before only to be told “not yet” or flat out “I don’t want you asking about that right now.” Wow! He had something else for me to learn, so being obedient and changing my attitude to serve well in spite of, not because of, my circumstances.

– Second, take inventory of how you’re approaching your job. Are you scattered? Overwhelmed? Bored? Frustrated? Look at how you’re managing your attitude, your interpersonal work relationships, and your time. Chances are, if you’re like me at all, you’ve got plenty of areas ready for some immediate improvement; improvement that can make a big difference in how you’re viewed by others on the team.

– Third, seek counsel. This is not the same as finding a sympathetic ear of someone who will agree with you. This is seeking wise counsel from a friend who will speak the truth in love and give you objective and biblical input. You need these people in your life beyond this moment, so build intentional relationships where you can be mentored and do the same for others. Healthy employees are valuable, and it’s hard to be healthy when you’re not getting another perspective from another emotionally/spiritually healthy person.

Want to talk about this? Email me. Or ping me on Twitter or Facebook, or even LinkedIn. If necessary, I can even provide a short season of coaching on how to do much of what I’ve described above.

So, do you deserve a higher wage? And, if so, what are you going to do about it?



  1. I agree that we often approach salaries in the wrong fashion. I’ve come to discover that often undervaluing (and ultimately under-paying) staff is only a smaller symptom of a bigger leadership problem. When leadership exchanges their divine, pastoral calling for a mere worldly operational mindset, they cease seeing ‘people’ and start seeing cogs in a machine. I think at that point, being underpaid is probably the least of your worries – there may be deeper issues with how your employer listens to the Spirit. You’ve got to decide whether God has called you to remain there for a season and encourage your leadership or if he’s calling you to serve under different shepherds.

    I’m going through such a transition myself after waiting on God for a few years (actually moving to a secular job altogether). The first thing my colleagues tell me is “oh, I bet the pay is way better there.” I just think, “you’re missing it” – we yearn for a healthy culture and environment, led by leaders who hear the Spirit, and think that pay is a whole separate matter, but I believe the way they compensate employees is just one of the many gauges of that.

    • Well said, Mike! There’s a bigger issue than pay (no question), yet I see pay as being something that shouldn’t be an issue to begin with. But, I couldn’t agree more: a healthy culture & environment are far more important!
      – Anthony


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