Thursday, February 7, 2013

The High Cost Of Being A Small Church

Last week I wrote about the high cost for clergy to serve small churches.  A cost which is born significantly by new clergy and female clergy.  But the small church also pays costs that are not significantly born by larger churches.

I will be reappointed this year, and so the church I serve is having to put aside money in order to be able to pay for the move of the incoming pastor.  This conference maxes the reimbursement at $1500.  They paid this amount two years ago when I moved in, and two years before that when my predecessor moved.  In fact the average length of appointments for this church is 2.3 years, and when you take out two outliers, it's actually 1.8 years.  So basically every two years they are having to pay for a new pastor to move here.  Compare that to large churches which are only having to pay this expense every five to ten years, or more.

In addition, because we are located in a rural area, which means we have to drive long distances to get anywhere, my mileage reimbursement line is higher than that of other large churches, or even small churches in urban areas.

My reimbursement line at my last church, which was a large congregation, was $4600.  But only about half of that went to mileage.  My reimbursement line in this church is $4500 and all of that will go to mileage, and depending on what my hospital visitations end up being like this year, I may expend even more than that on mileage.  To truly cover my professional expenses I should probably have a reimbursement line closer to $5500.

But the worst is the cost born by the small church for health insurance premiums.  Here is the breakdown for this conference:
In looking at the chart what you will notice is that the more money clergy make, the more they pay towards their health insurance.  There is just over a $500 difference between the lowest and highest.  That makes sense in principle, although there is a potential $20,000 difference in salary for the $500 cost, a trade-off I'm willing to make.

If you move over and look at what the churches pay, you will see that same amount accounted for.  But the difference is that the larger churches who can afford large salaries pay less for insurance, and the smaller churches who can only pay a small salary, and the lowest amounts are below minimum salary, end up paying the most.

This is what they call a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford it are hardest hit.  So this is yet an additional cost that is born on the backs of the small church that is not similarly felt by our larger churches.  I certainly have some suggestions for ways to make this more equitable, but do not have the magic bullet for this, and yes I also recognize that some of our larger churches have gotten themselves into financial positions in which they are having a hard time paying these amounts, but these costs, I believe, are unfairly born by our smallest congregations.

No comments:

Post a Comment