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?

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