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!

The Scandalous Truth About Youth Pastor Annual Reviews

I ask for a raise every year. The 2018 Youth Pastor Compensation Survey revealed that over 80% of Youth Pastors didn’t ask for a raise in the past year. And I get that, honestly. There is so much pressure in church work to not appear greedy. And every dollar you don’t get in a paycheck goes towards some other Kingdom initiative. Not taking a raise is like being a 21st century martyr. Plus, Jesus was a humble dude, and didn’t have much in the way of compensation going for him either. Paul was a nomad without a home who lived off the generosity of each village he evangelized in. Two of our New Testament heroes weren’t exactly talking about their compensation a whole lot. And so, in our best effort to be like Jesus, our data says the vast majority of Youth Pastors don’t bring up compensation either.

But, one of the things we’ve learned in our years of studying compensation is that many Youth Pastors aren’t comfortable talking about compensation because they don’t even have the proper time and place to bring it up in a safe space. And we know why. 64% of YP’s didn’t even get an annual review in 2018. It’s so convenient that it feels scandalous.

64% of Youth Pastors reported not having an annual review with their supervisor in 2018.

And honestly, at some level this makes sense. Pastors are trained in how to teach the Bible. Most of our bosses have seminary degrees. Very few are trained in business, human resources, or as accountants who have a robust understanding of compensation and how to help employees thrive as employees. So we get that a good many boss-pastor-types are a bit unequipped to perform a performance review. We’re here to encourage change in this.

Youth Pastor: you must insist on getting an annual review every single year. USE OUR FREE 7 PAGE ANNUAL REVIEW TEMPLATE if your church doesn’t have a system in place. Get an Elder or Board Member to hear that you haven’t had a review, and begin a humble conversation where you can ask for honest feedback–and also offer your own analysis of your performance. You should do this whether you absolutely #nailedit and your performance is off the charts, or whether or not you absolutely bombed all year long and blew up the budget on summer camp. Because part of evaluation is clarifying expectations. The more you know about what your boss or board wants out of you, the more you can know how to excel in your role.

And every time you have an annual review, you need to ask for a raise. Every time. At a minimum a cost of living adjustment (COLA in the real world) should be considered; which is normally anywhere from 1-3%. Just think, if you make $40,000, and you get a 2% raise every year because you ask for a raise, that’s only $800 a year; but over five years, that’s a nice $4,000 raise. And that 10% overall increase in five years would better reflect the average salary of an employee with more tenure than you. It may not be quite as high, but you’ll be significantly closer than you would have been if you never ask. Because the sad reality is most churches don’t hand out raises like you hand out flyers for your latest camp fundraiser.

And I’ve also been through plenty of reviews where the boss says there is no money for a raise. It can get a bit discouraging, but I also know that being heard by your boss is a big deal for us. To have them look at us explaining why we feel like we deserve or need a raise, even if their answer isn’t awesome still creates some good will between the YP and their boss. It may not put a raise on the front of the stove; but a backburner is better than off the stove.