Justice in your paycheck?

Mark Maines | Jun 30, 2009

We’ve all been told that there are more than 2,000 Bible verses that deal with money or that Jesus talked about money more than any other topic in his ministry. However, for all the “public” discussion about money, the Church has yet to become comfortable with the topic, especially if the conversation involves how much you personally earn.

For most churches, personal compensation is a private issue. We are not supposed to know what our colleagues earn, but in small organizations, even though no one is supposed to know…everyone knows.

My suspicion for this lack of open dialog is that deep down we know how we compensate people is unjust. It’s not just because we have no criteria to guide our decisions and it varies from person to person. Sure, at times we may reward years of experience or education, but we are not sure how much weight these things should carry or if they carry the same amount of weight for every person. So each person is left to “wheel and deal” on their own, often leaving large gaps in salary for no apparent reason.

The two dominating criteria churches use in determining compensation are personality and power. Are you liked? All the better if you are liked by the people who possess power. Or, do you have the position and power to influence the decision (even if you are not well liked)? But, woe to you who are not liked by the people who are in power (even if you are very skilled at what you do).

However, there is a just way to compensate and reward the people in your organization. It’s called JESAP (Job Evaluation Salary Administration Program). According to the Johanson Group, here is how it works:

1. Clearly define every role (position) within the organization.
2. Assign a point total or “weight” to every position based on the level of responsibility included within the role description.
3. Create a salary range for each and every role description/position within the organization.

JESAP eliminates injustice for both parties in two directions. For the employee, it takes the guess work out of your salary. You will know what is expected of you, and what you can expect in return. The only negotiation that occurs is where in the range you will fall. It establishes an agreeable wage for a job well done. This is why many businesses refer to “job descriptions” as “performance agreements” because an agreement between employer and employee is being established. From the other direction, it protects the organization from either unwarranted or “need-based” requests for “pay-raises.” More than likely, you will always want to make more than what you earn and needs will always arise. However, it is not a fair expectation to think that your salary should increase simply because you think it should increase.

On that note, as an employee you have one opportunity per year to negotiate your salary. It is during your annual review (if your supervisor does not provide this to you already, establish one). If the expectations for your role are clearly defined and if a salary range is pre-established for the position, and if you agree to do the job for the compensation they are offering you, then it seems right and just to be thankful for the opportunity to contribute, knowing you will be fairly rewarded, and get to work.

Imagine walking down the hallways of your organization without any money “secrets.” Imagine everyone knowing how every person in the organization was compensated and why. Imagine everyone knowing exactly what they needed to do in order to earn more. Imagine everyone knowing when their next pay-increase would occur. Imagine organizational leadership knowing precisely how much they needed to raise the annual operating budget in order to keep up with inflation. Imagine no more complaining about being underpaid because everyone in the organization agreed to their salary. This seems to be the better way.

Mark Maines

Mark Maines is a Navy Chaplain currently assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. He is committed to helping individuals and organizations thrive in both their leadership and their followership. He holds an MDiv from Fuller Seminary, and serves on the Advisory Council for FYI. He can be reached at mark.maines@usmc.mil.

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