2021 Compensation and Guidelines Update

October 16, 2020

To the ELCA churches in South Dakota Synod,

Greetings in Christ!  I write today as the chair of the Support to Ministries committee.  We work on your behalf to discuss the role of ministers in their congregations; to support your work as the local church; and to maintain professional standards for clergy and rostered leaders.

As part of our work, the Support to Ministries committee provides an annual review of the Synod Compensation Guidelines, the document that describes the minimum fair compensation for rostered leaders (Pastors & Deacons)  and laypeople, including Synod Authorized Ministers. These guidelines ensure your leaders receive a fair wage.  Many churches do not know how to evaluate a pastor’s salary.  The Compensation Guidelines help your congregation remove the guesswork. You can find these documents on this page.

This year, we want you to know we recommend no change from the 2020 Compensation Guidelines for 2021. The first reason is logistic: we did not have a 2020 Synod Assembly to approve any changes.  Second, we recognize this year has been filled with uncertainty in every ministry context, including your church.  It is possible your people have astonished you with their generosity.  Or, your church may have felt the financial stress so prevalent in today’s economy.  Recommending no change gives your congregation flexibility to adjust to your circumstances.

However, I want to suggest this recommendation also provides your congregation with unexpected opportunities.

First, if you have historically paid leaders below guidelines, a year without an increase makes it more possible for you to catch up.  Meeting the minimum recommendation is a statement that you truly appreciate the gifts called leaders bring to your congregation; and that you value their leadership as much as any other congregation.

Second, you can still provide additional compensation–even though the minimum recommendation has not changed.  Give your leaders a raise to acknowledge their work has changed and multiplied over the last year!  Or consider a bonus or additional time off.  Use this as an opportunity to express your value of generosity rather than as a moment to pinch pennies.

Above all, please know that every congregation’s finances are given as a sacred trust, and used as an expression of God’s love. Your Support to Ministries team is thankful for your careful stewardship of the gifts of the people of God–in this and every season.

With gratitude,
Rev. Justin Kosec
Dean, Crossroads Conference
Chair, Support to Ministries Committee of the South Dakota Synod