You need to make more money as a youth worker

hurt_pigIt’s starting to irritate me how often I meet full-time youth workers who are paid what most of our country would consider a part-time salary. After meeting one such youth worker a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but post this on the Life In Student Ministry Facebook page:

“To any church elders out there, would you want your son-in-law to take a job that pays what you pay your youth pastor? Hopefully the answer is yes.”

There’s two problems to this issue:

1. Out of all people, church leaders who make hiring and budgeting decisions should know what the cost-of-living is in that area and compensate their youth workers accordingly. Why would a church even hire someone for an amount they know the youth worker can’t support their family on? Shouldn’t the question be, “How much can we bless someone who’s coming here to bless us and our families?” instead of, “Can we budget for a youth worker and not have it affect the rest of our budget too much?” (I know no church really asks that question out loud, but it feels that way sometimes to some youth workers.)

2. However, there’s an equal amount of responsibility that falls on the youth worker who accepts a full-time job for $30,000/year and then struggles month-to-month because of it. If you’re married and have kids, why would you accept a job that won’t support your family? Even if it’s the perfect church with the perfect job opportunity, what about saving for your kids’ education, your retirement, and regularly paying the babysitter for date nights out with your spouse? It’s not the perfect job if it’s not what’s best for your family.

Before you take a position, there’s always a lot of negotiating room. If the church has decided that they want you, you can usually negotiate your salary package. It’s not about being greedy — it’s about being responsible for your family and your future. Once you accept the position, a lot of that negotiating ability goes away, so take advantage of it while you can.

Even if you can’t negotiate salary because the church’s budget is very firm with legitimately no wiggle room, you can negotiate other things, like time off each week to pick up another job or to start your own business. Maybe negotiate six weeks of vacation instead of two so you can use the time for your family. Or something else. Be creative.

The point is this:

1. Churches, bless your youth workers financially.

2. Youth workers, put your family’s needs first.

Posted on January 7, 2013

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