Evaluating an Employment Offer from a Church

Today I want to talk to you about evaluating a pastoral job offer or a letter of offer to be a pastor of some kind in a church. I’ve been asked about this a lot lately. Many of my ministry friends are in transition and have asked me about evaluating their offers, and in some cases sent me the offer for advice on addressing the things in the offer. Let me just share a few thoughts along those lines. 

First, the time to evaluate the offer, crunch the numbers and figure out is before you accept the offer. Before. Do not ever, ever, ever engage in a situation where some details of the offer are to be determined once you’re in place. In fact, one of my friends had an offer and some of the benefits were described that they were to be decided or to be negotiated once the person is in their position. Not a chance. You negotiate that before you accept. You need to know exactly what the numbers are so there’s no surprises because generally the surprises end up being a minus sign in your wallet, not a plus sign. So everything absolutely needs to be clear. 

The other situation is how difficult the situation can be if you’re in a current position getting an offer for a new position in a different role, a different community, sometimes maybe a different denomination or something. It’s really difficult to evaluate your new offer compared to your current situations, and it’s important that you do that, that you are actually comparing apples to apples. 

Obviously, the salary figure is easy to evaluate whether the number is actually higher or lower. The benefits are more difficult because they may use different providers for the benefits which have greater or lesser coverages. Things like dental can vary widely, as can life insurance and disability, all of that kind of thing. 

And then the big issue is the cost of living in your new location with housing being a big part of that. It’s pretty easy to find out through an online search looking for a home similar to the one you live in and see what it would sell for, as well as looking into what you could sell your current one for and do some comparisons that way. 

There may be different tax implications I know when we moved into British Columbia, Canada we were surprised to discover that there was a 1% sales tax on homes. So when buying a home and sitting down to the lawyer to settle things, we were not prepared when they said we’d like the property transfer tax as well now. They explained it’s 1% sales tax which can be a fair bit of money that you might not have at your fingertips in a move. It’s important to compare all that. 

But the cost of living in a community includes things that are harder to trace. The cost of produce can vary widely. If you’re in a produce producing area, produce can be very reasonable. If you’re further north, it can be a lot more costly. Similar with meat or educational costs or travel. 

If you have family out of town that you want to see travel from your new location to be radically different. And so you want to think through all of these things and do some research on what the actual costs are compared to your actual salary offer. 

Now you know and I know that a salary is never the bottom line when it comes to an offer. Ultimately there are ministry variables and the bottom line is that you need to be called and hear from God in the whole mix of things. But as part of your evaluation, you need to do your due diligence when it comes to evaluating these offers. 

So #1, get it clear before you say yes. And #2, as much as you can crunch the numbers out so you’re comparing apples to apples, real cost of living to real cost of living in the new location and the actual salary, income and benefits to the actual salary income benefits in the new location. 

Don’t rush, don’t panic. And do not be afraid to put a stake in the ground and say, this is what I actually need to be making in this situation to make it viable and sustainable for my family. Your first ministry is your family, so protect them first. God will back you up in that. He’s for the family and he’s for your health. 

Again, it’s about crafting a focused, sustainable life of ministry. So take a stand for that. God bless you. Wisdom to you if and when you face these kind of salary challenges, negotiations and evaluations. Take care. Press on. 

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