The Pressure To Perform and YP Job Turnover

One of the things that always fascinates me as a Youth Pastor myself is how many “high earning” Youth Pastors there are out there. In 2018 we had exactly fifty responders out of over 2,200 who earned $75,000 or more. So far this year, we have had 43 responders out of 1,250 who hit the $75,000 threshold. But here is what is unbelievable to me…

I sent an email out recently to the top earners from 2018, asking them to make sure they took this year’s survey. Of the 50 that got that email, I had 10 bounce-backs from folks who are no longer employed by their high paying church. In fact, I’ve only had 20% of last year’s highest earners take this year’s survey so far.

I think one of the things this evidences is that some of these highly compensated YP’s are in extreme pressure cookers to “perform” and churches don’t have a lot of patience.

I reached out to one of these formerly highly compensated YP’s who I happen to know personally, and he offered some insights. He was at his last church for less than a year. He said,

“Everyone wants to have a really great youth ministry…and it doesn’t matter how good you are. When things don’t go as the church planned before they brought you in, you are the easiest scapegoat. We still believe that money can solve youth ministry problems because it solves adult problems…but there are a lot of Youth Pastors who are the ones who take the fall because adults want to have the results that come from throwing lots of money at a youth ministry in the form of a person. But we know it’s not that simple. YP’s are not slaves. they are employees.”

I guess the point of writing all of this is to let you who make less than my arbitrary $75,000 number who feel like your church has high expectations for you or who feel like you haven’t yet arrived because you’re maybe not earning the way you hoped you’d be earning at this point in your career: there is a lot of pressure out there to be great. But I believe the key to being great is lodged firmly in your ability to stick around for a long time in your ministry context. Developing leaders, growing an organic DNA, and doing the slow work of tending to students and their families relationally is what makes you great. It’s not your ability to draw a crowd, or come up with clever, or baptize a bunch of students

The Gut Wrenching Truth About Female Youth Pastor Compensation

I’ve been digging though the beginning of the data we’ve collected for The 2019 Youth Pastor Compensation Survey. In general there haven’t been any huge seismic shifts compared to last year. But in investigating this year’s top salaries (so far…), I stumbled across a disheartening fact.

Of the 150 highest earning Youth Pastors to have responded so far to the survey (out of more than 1200), only 16 of them are women.

That’s 12%. And only 2 of them cracked the top 50. I wrote an article recently for the National Network of Youth Ministries where I used a provocative paragraph title…and the point feels sharp: if your church wants to save money, hire a woman.

And it’s pathetic.

As a person who has studied Youth Pastor compensation for several years now, I want you to know that there are some glimmers of hope for this shifting. But at the same time the responsibility falls on Senior / Executive Pastors who are doing the hiring to make sure that when our churches are interviewing for a position, that we prepare a field of candidates to be considered that is diverse. Because our neighborhoods are diverse. Our families are diverse. Our congregations are diverse. And, folks, heaven will be diverse. If our pastoral staffs are full of middle aged white guys, imagine the value a female and/or minority perspective could bring to that group? It would be invaluable.

If you’re a female Youth Pastor and you’re reading this, please know that what you earn is not a reflection of your valuable contributions to the kingdom. You are vital and us men need you. So keep crushin it; and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself as budgets cycle through. Don’t let anyone steal your power; and the most power you have is in your voice.

The 2019 Youth Pastor Compensation Survey is LIVE!

This being our third installment of the survey, we have added a few small details that we think will help us understand two questions we hear the most about: Youth Pastors with side hustles, and the ever-debated average lifespan of a youth pastor. We’re hoping to count the later in years and not months. Take the survey now, and share about it using #ypsurvey19 on social.


The Slow Death of California Youth Pastors

Ok, maybe that was a bit of a dramatic title. But there is a red alert every CA YP needs to know about. Minimum wage in the Sunshine State for organizations of less than 25 employees (which is most churches who don’t have a preschool staff) is currently (in June of 2019) at $11 per hour. CA Labor Law currently states that overtime exempt salaried employees must earn double minimum wage over a 40 hour work week, or $22 per hour.

Do some math. That means a “salaried” full-time Youth Pastor shall be currently paid no less than $45,760 in the state of California. But currently 1 in 5 full-time CA YP’s are making less than that number; according to YP Comp Pro’s 2018 survey results. How did I get to that number?

$11 (CA minimum wage) x 2 (doubling for overtime exemption requirements) x 40 hours / week x 52 weeks per year = $45,760

If your church has 25 or more employees (this counts ANYONE on payroll. Interns, janitors, preschool employees, etc) than CA minimum wage is $12 per hour as of today. Here’s the adjustment in the calculations.

$12 (CA minimum wage) x 2 (doubling for overtime exemption requirements) x 40 hours / week x 52 weeks per year = $49,920

Now, here’s the kicker. For the 4 out 5 CA YPs who are not being paid illegally currently, each year on January 1 CA minimum wage is set to increase by ONE DOLLAR. This increase will continue until in 2023 the CA minimum wage rests at $15 per hour for organizations of less than 25 employees. For larger churches of 25+ employees, that deadline is January 1 of 2022.

Let me show you the escalation schedule for smaller churches <25 employees over the next few years. These numbers are the minimum a full-time salary exempt employee may earn in CA.

  • 2019 = $45,760 ($11 per hour minimum wage)
  • 2020 = $49,920 ($12 per hour minimum wage)
  • 2021 = $54,080 ($13 phmw)
  • 2022 = $58,240 ($14 phmw)
  • 2023 = $62,400 ($15 phmw)

For larger churches of 25+ employees, here’s the escalation schedule:

  • 2019 = $49,920 ($12 per hour minimum wage)
  • 2020 = $54,080 ($13 phmw)
  • 2021 = $58,240 ($14 phmw)
  • 2022 = $62,400 ($15 phmw)

What Does It All Mean For The CA YP?

Here’s my predictions. The number one reason most YP’s are salaried is because of the overnight trips we do with the youth. Mission trips, camps, retreats, etc. Churches could never afford to pay overtime for things like that where you’re on the clock for 24 hours straight, several days (or weeks!) in a row. However, many churches are not going to be able to give $20,000 raises over the next 3 years to their Youth Pastors. That’s just a reality that many churches are not aggressively planning for. To put that in perspective, if you currently make $46,000 – or, basically the average salary of a YP nationwide in 2018 – you would need slightly more than 10% raises year over year until 2022 to stay compliant. To be clear, in 2022, the “entry-level” salary for a YP will be no less than $58,240 in California. If you’re a veteran, you obviously should be being paid more than the entry level salary; so take that into consideration.

Practically, I believe this means we’re going to see many CA churches move away from taking teens to already-expensive summer camps for 7 days. You’ll see a trend where mission trips are family-led, rather than staff led, and you’ll see retreats over a long weekend be the thing that sticks around. I also believe we will see an increase in the “conference” offerings in our state. Many YPs from the same region or network will work together and use a large facility in the summer to run what is essentially a teen-oriented VBS: a conference with top flight speakers, fun stage games, breakouts, and a killer worship band. These conferences are already popping up all over the place, but they are going to become more normal as churches realize they have an empty facility that sits empty while they spend thousands of dollars to take kids to camp. The conference model allows kids to go home at the end of the day, and YPs to clock out.

I also think you’ll see a rise in job sharing YP’s. A church will seek to hire two 20-hour employees, rather than one 40-hour employee to avoid paying medical benefits and try and limit compensation by counting hours tightly.

What do you think? Look into your magic ball to 2025. How many churches will no longer have salaried YPs?

The Worst Month To Be a YP

There’s good news at the bottom of this blog. I promise. Anyways…

I was hired for my first full-time gig in the Spring of 2008, with a July 1 start date. The church was stoked to “have me on board in time to get things rolling for the Fall.” Every church wants to get youth group up and running with the school year. It’s one of the unwritten rules.

That first year, I crushed it. We gave the youth space a face lift, built a student worship team, added some key volunteers, launched the church’s first ever youth small group structure, and saw the group grow numerically, while students brought friends who gave their lives to Christ.

It was a win.

Then, in May, I had Youth Group on a Tuesday, and Wednesday morning was called into an “emergency Personnel Committee meeting” that evening where I was told that the new Senior Pastor the church had hired sent a letter letting me know that he wanted to bring in his own guy to run the youth program and my services were no longer needed.

Just in time to do a summer search, and get a person on board in time to get their program off the ground in the Fall. Sound familiar?

It’s the same story many of us have lived before. Some churches can be heartless in that way. But at some weird fundamental level, we get it.

And so, back to the job boards you go. If you find yourself dealing with transition (and I’m not talking about playing graduation bingo as you watch your Seniors graduate), YP Comp Pros has the best tools to help you make the most out of your job hunt and next position. And for the 24 hours only, help yourself to 50% off your entire order in our store with coupon code halfoffhero01. With six individually packaged masterclasses, there is for SURE something for you to help you turn your calling into a sustainable career.

Here’s to hoping the worst part of your May is seeing these JT pics pop up everywhere. Happy hunting for the rest of you!