Congregational Care Spotlight: Terms of Call

It’s that time of year again where Presbytery and General Assembly level reporting is due for the past year.  It’s also the time of year when budgets are set in place for our congregations, and that means it’s time to submit the annual Terms of Call Worksheet to the presbytery. 

What Is the Terms of Call Worksheet? 

Think of it as a contract between the minister/commissioned pastor (hereafter summarized together as “pastors”) and the session of a congregation that outlines the financial compensation given to that minister in a calendar year. 

It is important for several reasons: 

  1. It is necessary to determine the “Effective Salary” for mandatory Board of Pensions dues on full-time, installed calls, or optional dues on other plans available to part-time pastors;
  2. It helps to delineate, for tax purposes, what compensation falls under certain tax rules (i.e. housing allowance, reimbursements, etc.);
  3. It helps the presbytery leadership to ensure that our pastors (both full-time installed and part-time) are being adequately compensated by the congregation they serve.   

Pastors and congregations can often partner very beautifully in many facets of ministry and then suddenly run into awkward, even tense, moments when it comes to discussions about a pastor’s compensation.   However we think churches should be structured in our Presbyterian system, the fact is pastors often provide a central and stable role to the spiritual life of our congregations.  Providing adequate compensation can help them fulfill their call without having undue concern about their current or anticipated financial needs.  

It also ensures that a congregation can attract and retain qualified pastoral leadership, investing in their education, talent, experience, and work on behalf of the Lord within and beyond the congregation.  It becomes a sign of appreciation, and motivation for the pastor to work with the session and congregation to meet agreed-upon and reasonable goals.  

It is no wonder then, that the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that even from the days of the temple, those who served God’s people in such a capacity would also be compensated for working among them (1 Corinthians 9:9-14). 

Seeking a Balance

Understandably, though, our congregations are working with tighter budgets due to the increased costs of living and operational costs.  This, coupled with declining attendance and overall contributions, makes for a delicate balancing act for the finance committees of our sessions.  

As we noted when proposing the increase to our terms of call this past fall, the presbytery’s recommendation seeks a balance between paying our pastors fairly and recognizing the sacrifices of our sessions, congregations and their membership in providing for them.  

The Figures

Our current minimum effective salary for full-time, installed calls in 2023 is $57,600, which includes any cash salary, housing allowance, contributions to a 403b plan from the pastor, and healthcare spending plan designations, and other compensation options which the Board of Pensions includes for dues purposes (you can read more about what is included in that here:  

For part-time calls, we strongly encourage our congregations to compensate their pastors on a prorated basis.  In other words, if a call is 1/2 time for instance, the ideal “effective salary” for such calls would be 50% of $57,600, or $28,800. 

Board of Pensions dues are calculated as 39% of Effective Salary for full-time installed calls.  Minister’s choice benefit options (which is the more a la carte version) is available to part-time pastors (and others). 

Reimbursable expenses can be allotted as agreed between the congregation and the pastor, but typically some combination of automobile and professional expenses should equal at least $2,500, and at least $750 should be allocated toward continuing education.

Two weeks of continuing education and four weeks of vacation are standard time for a full-time call; but it is something we’d also recommend as a minimum for any call part-time or full-time.  Additionally, in an attempt to be financially creative, we’ve agreed to offer the option to pastors and congregations for a limited number of additional vacation or study weeks to be granted in lieu of financial payment.  These would equal roughly $1,100 of compensation at our current cost schedule.

Summing It Up

Finally, the Terms of Call worksheets can be pretty daunting to fill out, no doubt.  Last year, I updated the “Notes” sheet which explains each part and what is available therein to the best of my ability.  But if you have any other questions, please reach out to me and I’d be happy to answer those or point you to someone who can. 

Terms of Call worksheets are due to us January 31; however, I know many congregations do not have the annual meeting until sometime in February, so as soon as possible after February meetings would be helpful so we can review those as a team and grant approval to them as required.   Also, for congregations utilizing part-time calls, please submit copies of your compensation and/or contracts to us as well, so that we have those for our records. 

Blessings to you all in the New Year! 

In Christ’s Service,

Nathan Leslie – Director of Congregational Support

Still need to complete your Terms of Call form? Find it here!

Published by shenangopresby

The Presbytery of Shenango serves 49 churches in Mercer and Lawrence Counties of western Pennsylvania.

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