Compensation Guidelines

Compensation Guidelines

2020 Compensation Guidelines
The Clergy Compensation Task Force was appointed by the Executive Committee last spring and charged with the task of reviewing the guidelines. They began by reviewing compensation guidelines from other synods (many of whom were similar in demographics or geography) and guidelines such as the Atlantic District-LCMS and the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

As they reviewed guidelines set by others, it became clear that our synod was significantly below others. As the task force and then the Synod Council discussed major changes to the guidelines, it was noted that as a synod with the highest cost of living, we must have guidelines that reflect that. Changing the guidelines is one way in which we, as a synod, can take care of our pastors. In order to have leaders that are best equipped for ministry, we need to encourage that their whole family is cared for. We need to recognize that many of our pastors, in getting theological education, have also accrued significant student loan debt. We also need to say that the work of our pastors is of the utmost value to our faith communities and deserves appropriate wages.

This is the first major change to the guidelines in a very long time. Both the task force and our synod council discussed how congregations may find difficulty in making these changes and how pastors may need support in advocating these changes. As such, here are some tips and talking points that came out of those conversations:

  • Talk about money. Conversations about money tend to also bring out anxiety in people. We need practice just talking about money and wages. As a pastor, talk with other colleagues about money and finances. The more practice we have the easier it will become. If you are a Portico Benefits Member, you are eligible for Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which gives you free and confidential time with a counselor, access to articles, and referrals to other professionals and agencies. Call 1-800-432-5155 or visit
  • Advocate for our pastors. Approving these guidelines is one way that our synod council is proactive in caring for and advocating for our pastors. Consider inviting a Synod Council member to your next congregational council meeting. If you need an advocate that can be a more consistent voice, consider a neighboring pastor who could advocate for you in your congregation and you could do the same in theirs. Your congregation may have lay leaders who can help advocate for pastors’ salaries and benefits. One synod council member shared their experience with a pastor who had 2 lay leaders that were able to articulate issues and free the pastor to remain a faith leader. Another synod council member noted that their congregation has a "Parish and Pastor Committee". It consists of 4 members appointed by the pastor and 4 members appointed by the congregational council. The group serves as a liaison between the parish and pastor on any number of issues – salary, worship changes, and so forth.
  • Value pastoral ministry. Multiple people noted that the pastor doesn’t want to look as though they are in ministry for the wrong reasons or that it is all about the money. Take note of the tasks and vital ministry being carried out by clergy.
  • Look towards the future. The Synod Council also spoke about the concern that a congregation that cannot currently support their pastor at these guidelines may have even more difficulty doing so in the future. This shows a need for conversation within the congregation about the best ways forward. If your congregation can’t budget differently this year, what can you do next year? The following year? Think about a 3-year plan for enacting these guidelines.
  • Practice good stewardship. Financial resources in our congregation are a gift from God for mission. Good stewardship education can help congregations to better understand the ways our offering makes a difference in the life of a congregation and its leaders. Both our synod and church-wide organization provide free resources to help with congregational stewardship. 

The synod council adopted these changes with the understanding and expectation that congregations and pastors will engage in conversations about meeting the guidelines. Our goal is for our pastors to be at or above guidelines within the next 3 years (October 2019). The task force will be continuing their work to refine these changes to the guidelines.

2020 Pastors' Compensation Guidelines as of October 3, 2019 

Mileage Reimbursement
The current allowed amount is 57.5 cents per mile. It is the recommendation of the synod that congregations follow the IRS guidelines for mileage reimbursement; check the current rate at

If you have any questions regarding the guidelines, please contact Sue Brandt, Director for Finance/Administration and Grant Management, at 212-870-2375.

Clergy Compensation Guidelines Task Force members: Pr. Harry Schenkel, Ms. Hazel Goldstein, Ms. Barbara Hansen, and Ms. Sue Brandt.


Further Resources

  • Learn more about Housing Allowances for clergy: See what is required and expected for clergy housing allowances.
  • All ELCA Financial Resources: Multiple resources that have come to the ELCA as frequently asked questions.
  • Stewards of God’s Love: This resource is designed to equip steward leaders with themed activities, Bible verses, best practices and new ideas to ignite year-round stewardship in congregations.
  • Congregational Money Autobiography: This autobiographical activity focuses on attitudes, principles and practices related to the teaching and management of money in your congregation.
  • All ELCA Stewardship Resources: Resources to assist you in your personal and household stewardship and in your congregation’s stewardship ministry