Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Hate Getting A Raise

Actually it is not the raise I hate getting, it is the process.

Do 12 year old kids vote on your salary?

Is your salary public?

For me, my salary raise has to go through the Personnel Committee, then to the Session (or governing body of elders), but then it has to go to the congregation for approval. In our Presbyterian system, there are only five things the whole congregation votes on -- everything else is in the hands of the elders.

Changing the amount of salary the pastor receives is one of them. If you work for the church and are not ordained, the session changes it. But if you are ordained, all active members get to vote on it --

Including your wife and kids.

Including the teenagers who just finished confirmation classes.

And you know the worst thing about the congregational meeting?

The pastor moderates the meeting.

I have met a couple of ministers who would start the meetings, walk out, and then let an elder conduct the rest of the meeting. That is mostly symbolic, since the pastor's family is still in the meeting. As a member of the Committee on Ministry or our Presbytery (a geographic group of Presbyterian Churches), that arrangement has often led to unnecessary problems for pastors.

So there I am, conducting a meeting in which my salary is to be approved.

The meetings are always peaceful and routine -- who would get up and speak against a motion like this unless I was really having problems with the church?

So that is what I did this Sunday after church -- moderating a meeting in which I was being given a raise. I find it all humiliating and embarrassing :(

Still, at the end of the day, I'm left wondering if this was worth it.

I hate these meetings!


Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

I'm very sympathetic. I've always hated seeing our pastors do this. There MUST be a better way!

At the church I attend now, our pastor arranges for another pastor (usually a retired one) to moderate the congregational meeting so he can leave. That avoids the constitutional problem of asking an elder to preside over a congregational meeting.

It's been a couple of years since we've given our pastors a raise, so congratulations.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Towanda said...

As a PK, I hated those meetings. Our whole family left. Seemed more appropriate, but that was the most horrible uncomfortable feeling. I don't remember who moderated...I think the clerk of the session...but that was one of my least favorite parts of being a PK.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

In our church the pastors and their families leave for this part of the meeting. They're gone for all of a few seconds, usually. I am sure it's a difficlt part of ministry, but the congregation approves the rest of the budget so I don't see leaving this one section a secret. True enough, staff salaries and benefits are lumped together, but there's something very good about the maintenance of transparency with respect to pastor salaries. ESpecially in light of the article that appeared in our paper yesterday about the rector of another church under investigation for some rather astonishing expenditures on the church credit card.

Sorry you weren't stunned by Brokeback. Interestingly, it was a Catholic priest who told me that it was a spiritual experience of astonishing proportions. Did you read that review on my blog by a "real life cowboy"? He expressed it far better than I ever could.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Rodger Sellers said...

Try this on for size: Moderate a meeting like that every year for five years in which the same two men get up every year to tell everyone how you make too much money and that's why they aren't going to vote for it - then figure out what to say when one of these two is nominated from the floor to serve on session! (Can you spell P.I.F.?)

BTW, gannet girl: A congregation doesn't "approve" a budget; they "receive" it (Session approves it) -- another one of those little things that can really snafu a cong. mtg. like this when folks think they are doing one thing but in reality doing another.

Guess none of you have ever had to call someone out of order during this annual rite, no?

It's another one of those anachronisms where we've outsourced to a by-gone era.

12:27 PM  
Blogger cheesehead said...

My husband got up and left the meeting too. Nobody said a word to him about his giving up his voice for that moment.

I don't understand why we do this. In no other job I've had was the evaluation of my "job performance" kept a secret from me.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Rev Dave said...

I left the room and went to my office during our recent meeting. Man, it seemed like a long time before they called me back in to moderate the rest of the meeting. (I'm single, so I avoid the problem John mentions of leaving the room yet having family still present.) I'm too polite to pry into what was discussed during my absence. I did get the modest raise the session had suggested. :-)

Quotidian: why is it a constitutional problem to have a member of session moderate that portion of the meeting? Have I--gasp!--missed something in the Book of Order?

We're still educating on the difference between 'approving' the budget and 'presenting' it. Pointing to the 'five things that the congregation can do' section in the Book of Order helps.


4:11 PM  
Blogger Purechristianithink said...

Actually, when I point out to members of the confirmation class that after they are confirmed they get to vote on how much I get paid, their ears always prick right up. It seems wierd from our adult point of view, but the teenagers find it quite empowering :-)

4:45 PM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

Sorry, RS. I admit that my ears and eyes both glaze over when people start to talk about approve, receive, whatever. Thankfully there are people on session who love that kind of stuff. I am in awe of what the clerk does. My gifts are most definitely elsewhere.

6:09 PM  
Blogger see-through faith said...

I think the BETTER way would be to a) remove yourself and your family from this part of the proceedings. It isn't right that that any of you should vote on it anyway.

Since we are supposed to be more open I think it is healthy to look at how the money in the church is best spent and the pastor's salary is part of that. It must be uncomfortable for the congregation too - yet it should be open and above board.

For example the needs of the church might be best served by two part time pastors - but the system right now doesn't make it easy to discuss that in this setting as a real option.

What I hope is that the budget is discussed properly elsewhere and that this meeting is really rubber stamping decisions which are good ones for the whole church and in line with the vision from God.

I think it's important that we as pastors are given and we as the church give good constructive feedback (performance evaluation)
is that part of the process but I'm not sure it should be linked to a salary raise.

It shouldn't feel humilitiating - but I'm sure it does - and the real question is .. why?

Cheesehead - I do think it is appropriate that your husband gives up his vote on this! A spouse does have a vested interest in the matter, as does the priest him/herself.

Do you see the raise (or lack of it) as a vote of confidence (a vote of lack of confidence) ? It shouldn't be that way.

But the UMC system is slightly different. We approve a budget which incldes thepastors salary and we can ask questions on different parts of it,and amend it as we the congregation feel free to (on a vote)

and in our sytem someone from another church chairs the meeting (usually the DS but he can actually appoint any ordained minister)

5:39 AM  
Blogger Songbird said...

In the UCC, a layperson (the Moderator) convenes and runs the Annual Meeting. This was my fourth Annual Meeting as pastor, but the first where a raise was under consideration. I left in order that the members would feel free to ask questions and was out of the room for the entire budget discussion. That was my choice. I know this particular church has a history of being fearful to ask questions in a public setting, leading to grumping in the parking lot later. Last year we had a great open discussion during the Annual Meeting about what to do with our parsonage, which we currently rent to tenants. Keep it? Sell it? Differing opinions were openly and respectfully shared, a first for this church in many, many years. I wanted them to have the chance to feel that good about this discussion, so I left the room, trusting that the budget committee knew how to present their information and make their case, which they did. The biggest topic of conversation was the health insurance and whether they could "get out" of paying it. (That came from the mother of the Stewardship Chair; the daughter said, "no.")
My only voting family member is college age son, who was out of town, so we didn't need to deal with that, but I would agree that having the family in the room is not appropriate.
Despite all that, I spent a bad half hour waiting to be called in again. (Not all that time was spent on my package!)

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See thru faith -- You have some good ideas, but unfortunately, they don't fit in our system. BTW, Presbyterian ministers don't vote in Congregational Meetings (although they do have a vote in Session meetings). Apostle John said he moderated the meeting -- he didn't say he voted in the meeting.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Angelique said...

Well, I figure there could be a more annoying way to get a raise but that is pretty annoying. I think they should suprise you with a raise. Who doesn't like suprises.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I hate those meetings, also -- although the Church I serve has not had one in a couple of years! :)

8:09 AM  
Blogger cheesehead said...

Lorna, if you knew my OEH, you would know that he would not make a peep during such a discussion. LOL.

My presence or absence in the room is not really what quashes honest communication around here. Members are far more fearful of appearing to disagree with their friends, or with the few who are percieved as being "large and in charge."

As for vested interest, I think if a spouse tried for a second to get a congregation to somehow double the pastor's salary, people would catch on real quick! I don't know any spouses that stupid! LOL

I was simply pointing out that there are few vocations, in my limited experience, where the performance evaluation is so shrouded in secrecy. It makes me sad that people need to speak freely about me behind my back, (or as freely as their friends will allow) but cannot have honest dialogue to my face.

That's all.

I'll keep leaving the room, rolling my eyes in exasperation as soon as they can't see me.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

My presence or absence in the room is not really what quashes honest communication around here. Members are far more fearful of appearing to disagree with their friends, or with the few who are percieved as being "large and in charge."

The blogging world is so weird sometimes. Just yesteday I got an email which more or less asked is the AGM( twice yearly here by law) a place where we can really discuss stuff -or a rubber stamp arena.

I wish I knew how we could improve the communication, the way to ask and answer questions, so that people can make an informed decision /vote rather than it being so highly charged.

I'd forgotten how horrible these meeting have become since we started to try to discuss. But I think we need to keep on trying. And giving feedback (as happened yesterday) when we feel it necesssary. Mind you this feedback took three years to get to me. Sigh.

blessings to you all
thanks John for opening this discussion.

To you all, it's most helpful to me to hear how its done elsewhere, your fears and frustrations and your good experiences too.

hugs and blessings,

11:20 AM  
Blogger doodlebugmom said...

At least you got the raise!

I like Congress' idea...where you just vote yourself one.


3:44 PM  
Blogger DennisS said...

Your biggest allie should be the moderator of the Personnel Committee. This is the person who can best speak to the issues, share what is appropriate to share, tell whether you found the recommended raise to be adequate, etc. We've got a fellow of 30, who does a terrific job with the personnel committee. He was also chair of the PNC. When he speaks, people listen. He knows exactly what is going on, and knows what should be shared, and what not to say.

My family of five step out (both times so far) that pastor compensation was discussed. The congregation has had no problem approving raises. If they don't like the recommended amount (in either direction), they take it up with the personel committee - not the pastor.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does the Book of Order give ministers the right to vote in session meetings? They wear two hats at every meeting. The first hat is the moderator hat and the second hat is that of a voting member. How does the other session members know when the minister is acting as a moderator or as a voting member? If the minister is acting as a voting member, who is acting as the moderator? Does it bother anyone else that the minister is given the right to vote at session meeting even though he/she isn't a member of the church and was not elected to represent the congregation?

5:23 PM  

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