Almost anyone who works in children's ministry or student ministry understands what it is like to be underpaid and overworked. That comes with ministry in general, but for various reasons churches often pay children and student staff even less than other roles in the church. What we pay those people says a lot about how much we value them and the ministries they lead.
Yes, I serve in Family Ministry and this post could seem self-serving. I do not lump myself in with what I write here and my impression overall of staff who serve in my role (Family Pastor / NextGen Pastor) is that pay is not as much of an issue.
6 Reasons We Should Pay More
Instead of just focusing on all the reasons we don't pay children and student ministry staff like we should, here are 6 reasons I believe we should pay them more.
Education Isn't The Best Predictor Of Success
Don't get me wrong, I value education. I believe the best leaders are life-long learners. The problem is when we put too much value on candidates having specific degrees and then pay far less to children and student ministry staff when they don't have them. Education is valuable, but it has not proven to be a great predictor of success in ministry. Paying a little more for more education is fine. Paying $10K-$20K more is not.
They're Pastors Too
One thing I see is children and student ministry staff not being labeled as pastors and then they're paid far less than pastoral staff. Yes, there are roles that are not pastoral in nature and I believe it's fine to differentiate those roles. However, I do think we've missed it when we have directors of Preschool, Elementary or Student Ministry and they're not considered pastors. They pastor tons of kids, parents, and volunteers and we shouldn't value who they pastor less than who other staff are responsible for pastoring. We should expect more and pay more.
They Must Be The Best Leaders
Children and student ministry staff are responsible for leading massive teams of volunteers. In most cases, they lead the largest number of volunteers of anyone on staff. Our job as leaders in the church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” If your children and student ministry staff are thriving, then they're leading really well and carrying out ministry through others. In church world we'll pay the best speakers, the best artists, the most educated, and give far less to the best leaders if they lead in family ministry. That is a mistake.
Their Ministry Impacts Well Over Half The Church
In many churches, children make up about 23% of attendance and students make up about 10%, and their parents make up another 33%. Add in the volunteers they lead who don't have kids and you're looking at about 70% of the church being impacted by their ministry. The main services in our church impact about the same percentage, but if you compared how well we pay staff who serve in each of those departments, unfortunately, it's usually not even close.
Home-Grown Doesn't Mean Less Deserving
This applies more with children's staff than students staff, but you'll find far more home-grown ministry staff in these ministries than you will in others. What that leads to is continuing to pay them just slightly more than the terrible pay they received to start out. Conversely, when we need a worship leader or groups pastor we'll hire from the outside and sometimes pay twice as much. Knowing someone is rooted in our church and grew as a leader in our church does not mean they are less deserving on the pay scale.
In all honesty, I could probably have written 20 reasons, but if you're looking for some more helpful content related to this issue, check out these posts on the Vanderbloemen Blog.
3 Reasons You’re Struggling To Find A Children’s Pastor & How To Fix Them
Why High Capacity Children’s Pastors Are So Hard To Find