2023 Clergy Compensation Guideline Updates
Posted November 22, 2022
Annual Compensation Guidelines for Clergy in the Illinois Conference UCC are set by the Ministry Leadership Team. This year, we reviewed and updated the guidelines with consultation and advisement from laity and clergy who assessed past and present methodology and compared our approach with that of other Conferences. We tried to learn from other Conferences’ best practices while keeping in mind the range of ministerial settings in the Illinois Conference, from urban to sub and ex-urban and rural to small and mid/large size cities. Because our base salary number had only accounted for COLA increases in recent years, you will see that the base is adjusted and we are recommending adding the 2023 Federal Cost of Living Increase as well. We recognize there may be some “sticker shock” for congregations as we are trying to keep pace, and we realize that clergy face sticker shock at the grocery store and gas station just like other people, and that we need to keep updating Compensation Guidelines accordingly.
The goal of clergy compensation is to account fairly and justly for pastors’ education and experience and to allow them to live in or near the communities in which they serve. Clergy do not enter the ministry seeking to enrich themselves, but clergy do seek a living wage that allows them to bloom where they are planted. Unlike other professions which can operate remotely, or which can accommodate long commute times, most congregations still desire to have their pastor in residence, and most clergy want to live in the communities in which they serve. Our Conference Guidelines seek a method for determining what compensation is needed to account for our educational and formational preparation for ministry, our years of experience, and the size and locations of the congregations we serve.
We realize that clergy compensation differs in certain ways from the for-profit and business world. While we can learn much from the business world, the church is not a business. It is a gathering of people called by the Spirit of God to live a particular way of life shaped by the gospel of Jesus Christ and expressed in worship, spiritual formation, compassion, and work for justice. The church espouses gospel values, and some of these values are embodied in these guidelines, particularly in the area of equitable salary/housing and in health insurance. We understand that these may be a stretch or may be different from the industries in which congregants are employed, and we seek to honor that ordained ministry is a unique calling with distinct roles and responsibilities. Being Christian means living from distinct theological commitments. We encourage congregations to reflect not just on their ability to compensate their clergy, but their willingness to implement these guidelines relative to other areas of the annual budget. In many cases, our most vital churches are those that compensate their clergy most fairly and faithfully. These are not necessarily the largest or richest churches—but they and their clergy flourish together and have significant impact on their communities.
When a congregation joins the UCC it enters into a covenant to participate in the life and work of the Association, Conference, and wider denomination. When a pastor is ordained in the UCC, they too covenant to participate in the life and work of the wider church. Attending to equitable, fair, and just compensation for our clergy is one way that we live that covenant together. We commend these guidelines to you as reflective of best practices in the United Church of Christ. We also welcome your questions should you need further guidance to make use of the guidelines and calculation sheet.
The Illinois Conference Ministry Leadership Team