The Scandalous Truth About Youth Pastor Annual Reviews

I ask for a raise every year. The 2018 Youth Pastor Compensation Survey revealed that over 80% of Youth Pastors didn’t ask for a raise in the past year. And I get that, honestly. There is so much pressure in church work to not appear greedy. And every dollar you don’t get in a paycheck goes towards some other Kingdom initiative. Not taking a raise is like being a 21st century martyr. Plus, Jesus was a humble dude, and didn’t have much in the way of compensation going for him either. Paul was a nomad without a home who lived off the generosity of each village he evangelized in. Two of our New Testament heroes weren’t exactly talking about their compensation a whole lot. And so, in our best effort to be like Jesus, our data says the vast majority of Youth Pastors don’t bring up compensation either.

But, one of the things we’ve learned in our years of studying compensation is that many Youth Pastors aren’t comfortable talking about compensation because they don’t even have the proper time and place to bring it up in a safe space. And we know why. 64% of YP’s didn’t even get an annual review in 2018. It’s so convenient that it feels scandalous.

64% of Youth Pastors reported not having an annual review with their supervisor in 2018.

And honestly, at some level this makes sense. Pastors are trained in how to teach the Bible. Most of our bosses have seminary degrees. Very few are trained in business, human resources, or as accountants who have a robust understanding of compensation and how to help employees thrive as employees. So we get that a good many boss-pastor-types are a bit unequipped to perform a performance review. We’re here to encourage change in this.

Youth Pastor: you must insist on getting an annual review every single year. USE OUR FREE 7 PAGE ANNUAL REVIEW TEMPLATE if your church doesn’t have a system in place. Get an Elder or Board Member to hear that you haven’t had a review, and begin a humble conversation where you can ask for honest feedback–and also offer your own analysis of your performance. You should do this whether you absolutely #nailedit and your performance is off the charts, or whether or not you absolutely bombed all year long and blew up the budget on summer camp. Because part of evaluation is clarifying expectations. The more you know about what your boss or board wants out of you, the more you can know how to excel in your role.

And every time you have an annual review, you need to ask for a raise. Every time. At a minimum a cost of living adjustment (COLA in the real world) should be considered; which is normally anywhere from 1-3%. Just think, if you make $40,000, and you get a 2% raise every year because you ask for a raise, that’s only $800 a year; but over five years, that’s a nice $4,000 raise. And that 10% overall increase in five years would better reflect the average salary of an employee with more tenure than you. It may not be quite as high, but you’ll be significantly closer than you would have been if you never ask. Because the sad reality is most churches don’t hand out raises like you hand out flyers for your latest camp fundraiser.

And I’ve also been through plenty of reviews where the boss says there is no money for a raise. It can get a bit discouraging, but I also know that being heard by your boss is a big deal for us. To have them look at us explaining why we feel like we deserve or need a raise, even if their answer isn’t awesome still creates some good will between the YP and their boss. It may not put a raise on the front of the stove; but a backburner is better than off the stove.


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