So I have lit the proverbial touch paper this week, with a post that looked at the rate of pay of church based youth workers over the last 20 odd years. Pay that ranged from 12,000 in 1998 to 24,000 in 2005 (one church only)- all the rest were nearer £19,000. Many questions emerged from the discussions on it such as
- Why should churches adopt the JNC pay scales, its a different paradigm?
- Churches arent adopting the JNC scale like they used to, neither are they asking for qualified, its as if they want youth work on the cheap?
- £12,000 is shocking!
- How do these compare with youthworkers in faith based organisations instead of churches?
- Is it better to have low pay in a church than higher pay in an organisation and then be ‘forced’ to find your own funding for the role. (NB a task that even more youthworkers in churches are having to do anyway)
- You think this is bad, try being a childrens worker …
- Has anyone actually put a value or price on what is reasonable salary for the work (and the same can be said for many roles in church)
- You think this is bad, what about the gap year students…
And there were a few others, some you can find on my facebook page, some of these are for a different day, or in the comments below on that particular post, a link to it is here: ‘Are youthworkers paid peanuts?‘ . However, a stand out comment, was on twitter, that compared the salary both then and now of clergy salaries, compared to youthworkers, and also what youthworker salary has to pay for. It was also said by someone, a member of the clergy no less that a youthworker should have a stipend, rather than salary, with the same tax benefits. So, the debate rumbles on, though i fear that the stable door for equalising youthworker pay with clergy might have bolted somewhat. Though soon with the closure of many youth worker courses there wont be many specialists left. But still young people leaving the church by the dozen. So, from a purely financial salary perspective, not including add ons or extras, and as a result of the discussions over the last 36 hours, I have put together the following list of all the reasons why a youthworkers salary should be higher than the senior clergy. Even if often the ‘youthworker cant be paid more than the clergy as it would be wrong’ – actually it might be wrong the other way around. For these reasons:
- Housing. They, a youthworker has to pay for their own – This is at least £600 month
- Utilities. They have to pay for their own – For many at least £120/month
- Council Tax….ok so you see where I am going with this, same reason as 1 & 2.
- If the church is employing a youthworker ‘because it doesnt know what to do about young people’ then surely this expertise needs to be numerated accordingly?
- It would create a culture where youth work role might be seen as a proper ministry in the church, or it might…
- It may stop the small but significant flow of really experienced youthworkers furthering their vocation to also increase salary by becoming ordained and keeping experienced youthworkers in one place to work with young people over a long term. (emphasis on ‘It may’ as i know many dont make this leap for the money, maybe itll stop those heading to teaching instead)
- The youthworker has to find their own support, supervision and training, by the notion that often the pastor/minister has most of this laid on for them by the diocese/affiliation, then surely then the youthworker needs to be paid more for taking this responsibility.
- The youthworker should have the highest salary, because it is a more specialised role.
- Neither does a youthworker get bursaries for laptops, clothing and other equipment when they finish their training- they pay for these themselves.
- A youthworker is employed to help keep and grow the church, because this is why they are often employed. With great responsibility should also come great pay (to obliterate the quote from spiderman)
- On many occasions the youth worker actually supports and helps the pastors, and not the other way around, with thinking on mission, conversations, approaches and community work – again this is barely recognised it is knowledge and networks the whole church benefit from not the ‘yoof’.
- Supply and demand. There’s more jobs than there are youth workers, depending on the part of the country, that kind of competition should be ramping up the salaries.
- The youthworker will have a student loan to pay off for their studies, often. Clergy probably have (in the cofe) their studies paid for. (unless of course a youth worker isnt paid enough that they have to start paying it off)
- The youthworker, like the clergy is never off duty, but never says that they are ‘on call’ either – part of their work deliberately includes the non-session time.
Some of these are legitimate, others with tongue firmly in cheek, so bear with me a little. I know also that not every clergy/minister/pastor will have all of the things that are mentioned here, and work part time very sacrificially, this is quite true. It is also as true also that far far less youthworkers have any of these things. Though jobs with housing seemed more popular in the 1998 editions of youth work than recently, Maybe housing was cheaper then… And there will be easily arguments that clergy salary should be higher especially from clergy.
I wonder whether however, the issue is less about pay, and more about how much of the pay that the youthworker might actually see, especially when housing and utility costs are taken into account, and often these are paid for by the local church or diocese, not always, but often. And clergy who leave parish posts for diocese posts have a bit of a shock when the bills actually start coming through, as do ‘house repairs’. But pound for pound, this isnt a judgement on roles and the value of each role, but when it comes to deciding in a local church about how much a youth worker salary is, maybe it is time to think, actually how much will we pay them so that they can actually afford to live and live relatively comfortably in the parish, and not have to pay 1/2 their salary on rent or mortgage (ha ha, if you can get one).
So, consider the touch paper lit even more, not out of trying to be antagonistic, but maybe think about it – what kind of ministry amongst people, usually vulnerable young people are we creating, that is shaped in a way that causes financial tension and stress for the employee, before they even leave their front door to work with young people. I know money is tight everywhere, or at least in some quarters it is (though prioritising funding on mission and salaries might just be more important than office blocks and temporary quick fixes.
Maybe it would be a prophetic statement of the church, in an age when young people and youthwork is cut to the bone and young people continually derided for societies ills, that says that it is going to invest heavily and consistently on youthwork provision. Maybe. Statement that young people are actually important. You never know.
Oh and maybe in some churches youthworkers do have higher salaries, but there cant be many.
Pay youthworkers the same as clergy, yeah, and see the number of jobs for youthworkers shoot through the floor..