2022 Compensation and Guidelines

August 27, 2021

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 linked on this page.

These are complex documents, but let me highlight some features you should consider as you evaluate compensation for the ministers who so eagerly serve your community.

Last year when I sent this letter, we were just finding our feet as the global pandemic hit our communities. At that time, to acknowledge the uncertainty we all felt, we recommended no change to the compensation guidelines.

With God’s grace, we weathered this last year’s storms; and at the 2021 South Dakota Synod Assembly, the assembly approved an update to the Compensation Guidelines that includes a modest increase from the previous year’s guidelines. Please note that if you did not increase your pastor’s compensation last year, your congregation should use this year to catch up. You will have to account for two years’ salary increases to ensure your pastor is compensated accurately for their years of service. Failing to adequately compensate your leaders is always shortsighted; it makes it harder to keep current ministry staff and harder to hire again in the future. Trust that God truly rewards congregations who are generous to their leaders.

Additionally, there’s a further consideration for your church if you have deacons or other rostered laypeople on your staff. After years of conversation around the relationship between Ministers of Word and Sacrament (pastors) and Ministers of Word and Service (deacons), our national denomination has come to recognize these as rosters of equal importance. This has streamlined the Compensation Guidelines for rostered deacons–it means they follow a similar schedule to your pastors. Please carefully review your rostered deacon’s compensation to comply with the new guidelines. (The primary difference comes down to housing: to reflect their additional education level and the historic practices of the church, pastors receive housing in addition to their salary as part of their compensation package.)

Lastly, let me recognize that we have endured uncertainty in every ministry context this last year–including your own. This year we have lost so much. We have experienced leadership changes at church and job changes in our personal lives. But through all these things, God has remained with us. We have witnessed God’s grace and God’s assistance in our congregations as we have learned to do new things and adapt to our challenges at a pace that once would have seemed impossible. God is certainly with you this year, and God will continue to strengthen your resolve to serve God’s people with love.

Continue to be kind to one another, to bear with one another in love and patience, and to look for opportunities to be generous to those around you. Please find ways to appreciate your ministers who have poured their heart and soul into serving your community this year. Their sermons, worship leadership, funeral presiding, adaptation of holy communion practices, new forms of pastoral care–all of it has taken remarkable creativity and self-discovery. It has left our leaders feeling strained and drained, even with little prospect for perspective or renewal. So consider giving your leaders a raise to acknowledge their work has changed and multiplied over the last year! Or consider a bonus or additional time off.

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 

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