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!

Should a Youth Pastor Get Paid More If Their Ministry Is Bigger?

What’s a good size youth group for a church that’s your size? If you’re ministry is bigger than average, should you get paid more? If our ministry is smaller than average, does that mean you’re not doing a good job?

There are 500 different reasons why your ministry may be smaller or larger than other churches that are your size, and we’re not here to judge. BUT, we thought it may be helpful for all you YP’s out there to see our YP Heat Sheet of our churches sorted by Sunday sizes, with the number of respondents in each youth group size all in one place. Here it is!

The numbers in the colored boxes represent the number of respondents that are in that category. So for me (Dan), I’m at a church of 501-750, and I’ve got a high school group I lead of between 71-80 on average. There are 19 others like me. Though, some of them are undoubtedly running both Junior High and High School. If that’s the case, our JHYP and I, when we combine our programs, are in the 150-175 range, which I’d say means we are in rare air together, and our church has a very healthy ministry to students for the size church we have! You’ll notice the vast majority of YP’s shepherd a group of 40 or less. And then you’ll also notice there are a few YP’s with small churches running HUGE ministries. What’s in their Wheaties, cuz I want some? There’s also some huge churches with some humble student ministries. There is no rules here.

Why would we post this? We think, if you’re going to talk to your boss about a raise, it’s helpful for you to show data that supports that you’re doing an adequate job. Being able to show data on other churches of similar size, and compare your youth group size to theirs could be a way to display your competency. This can then lead to what we call a merit raise, or a raise you get because you’re crushing it.

I’ve heard it said (and I think it’s a reasonable idea) to have a student ministry that is at least a 10% cut of your church’s Sunday attendance. So a church of 200 should around two dozen teens coming. A church of 1,000 should have at least 100 students. You get the idea. Our data seems to support this idea. If you go to any size church, and then go look at the 10% of that church’s attendance, the youth group respondent number is always on the larger side of the data sample. It makes sense. It’s not a fact. But it makes sense.

But let’s get one thing straight: if you’re out there loving teenagers around the clock, teaching the Word, and pointing people to Jesus…you’re crushing it, regardless of how many sheep you’ve got in your pen every week. We’re for you! Keep on keeping on!

The 2018 Trends in Giving Report and What It Means For Youth Pastors

The times, they are a changin. But you already knew that.

The 2018 Trends in Giving report reveals some clear numbers around what many in church finances have been feeling for some time.

Check out the full report here, for free.

A few things we think are important:

Around 60% of North Americans prefer to give to charitable causes via online credit or debit options. This is a HUGE shift for churches, who traditionally have received gifts only via check and cash up until about ten years ago. Within this, it’s important to know that the user experience on a web page is vitally important to what’s known as conversion rate. Meaning, someone wants to give, but either can’t find your giving page, or its too complex, or too long, or to frustrating, or __________.

Good news for us YP’s! Youth and Children is the number one category across the world that folks are most likely to give to. This means if you’re trying to find money for camps, mission trips, interns, or to remodel your youth room…you could be some solid story telling away from people begging you to take their money! How churches alert their congregations to the needs of their youth and children programs are directly corresponding to those needs being met.

I like to think of it like this: whenever we can pair a person’s passions with their resources, we’ve got a winning combination of them feeling like their gift truly matters. Trends reveal this increases likelihood of repeat giving, and increased giving over time. Essentially, buy in. How can you as a YP help create buy in for your congregation with the Youth Ministry you’re the pastor for? Answer this question, and watch the floodgates open!

Dealing With The Absent Boss

Sunday is always coming for your boss. And they probably didn’t go to school to run a business. Chances are they have theological training and not their MBA. Managing personnel is the last thing on their mind. And it shows.

64% of Youth Pastors didn’t have an annual review in 2018. That means more than half of the bosses out there didn’t take the time to sit down with their Youth Pastor to talk about how their year was, and how their upcoming year is looking. More than half of YP’s are victim to The Absent Boss. We can help.

So many YP’s complain about bosses being up in their business, micromanaging their day to day care of the ministry. This can be frustrating too. Like a helicopter parent who won’t stop texting you on your day off about the carwash fundraiser, and whether or not their kid needs to bring their own soap. And yet, every YP would probably agree it’s better to have an over-zealous and overly-present parent, than to have no parent at all. The same is true with bosses. Those YP’s with a suffocating boss may complain, but at least there is somebody who is caring for you (even if it doesn’t always feel like a bowl of chicken soup).

And here’s what I know: every YP who feels alone, isolated, on an island, or even unwanted by their boss would memorize half of Isaiah if it meant they could have a decent boss…even an over-present boss.

If you’re in a spot where you can’t seem to connect with your boss and you feel undermanaged, it can be dreadfully frustrating. You may find yourself putting major deposits into the bucket of bitterness if you don’t have a space to talk about your role on the team or your compensation and benefits. I get that. I’ve been there.

The concept of leading up will benefit you tremendously. As a YP, you lead down all the time. Every student under your care is following you (we hope!). If you have a team of volunteers, some of that is leading down, but the veteran youth worker in me says most of that is leading across; meaning you’re partnering with people so everyone wins. But then there’s the person who is supposed to be leading you that you’re not getting strong guidance from. That’s when every YP must take charge of their own development and lead up.

Set your own goals. On paper. Give yourself deadlines to achieve things you know are beneficial for you or your ministry. And then hold yourself to them like a good boss would. Develop an AIP, an Action Initiative Plan. AIPs have strong deliverables with dates attached that allow you to chart progress and movement. Learning how to be self motivated will serve you well, always.

But that only solves the “how do I do my job better” question. It still doesn’t give you a clear route to conversation around compensation, benefits, roles and responsibilities. Take advantage of the YP Comp Pro’s FREE Annual Performance Review Template, and simply ask your boss if they’d be willing to fill out their portion of the document and get together to talk about it. Maybe even suggest inviting an Elder/Deacon/Board Member to join the conversation. And just frame it as that: a conversation that you’d like to have that will help enhance your performance in the coming year at your church. Your power is in the ask.

Slowly, as you develop rapport with your boss, you’ll find yourself with more access and a greater sense of being heard. These are critical components to increasing your compensation, but perhaps more importantly, feeling valued on your team.