Best Practices

Mission administrators had received mixed signals from missionaries and field leadership on key features of their compensation plan.

They needed knowledgeable outside help to objectively evaluate their system.  The review team was able to successfully address and resolve those problematic policies.  They included, but were not limited to the following issues:

  • The mission had been led to believe the missionary salary was significantly low. However, after completing a comprehensive salary buildup to determine the actual benefit to a typical missionary, it was clear that the salary was adequate.  The problem was simply that the mission had been unable to effectively present the compensation package, leading to confusion and dissatisfaction. No one had been able to provide an accurate “apples-to-apples” salary comparison between an individual missionary and a U.S. counterpart.

  • The salary plan included a significant amount as an added allowance for each child. This provision is common, but counterproductive. For example, missionaries already dealing with the emotional impact of an “empty nest” did not also need to deal with a severe pay cut when the separate allowance was dropped. Often, these missionaries were beginning to think about retirement and were ill-prepared to handle a salary reduction. Consequently, it was easier to justify leaving the mission during their most productive years in order to take higher paying jobs at home. With needed help, the mission was able to develop a preferable and fair plan.

  • The mission believed their retirement plan was adequate.  However, when applying the mission’s contributions to several likely hypothetical scenarios, and by seeing what other missions were doing, it became evident that the retirement amounts provided for missionaries was much too low.  The mission was eager to correct that hurtful situation.

  • Mission administrators did not understand why a missionary could live well in a developing nation, yet barely survive in a developed nation, when the cost of living in each location was similar, according to credible cost-of-living data.  The realities that led to the confusion were identified, and suggestions were made for solutions. The problem was not price differences, but rather, a matter of goods and services availability which altered purchasing patterns.

  • The mission was uncertain why missionaries seemed to fare better on field allowance than on home allowance. A few flawed assumptions were identified. By correcting those assumptions, the mission was able to better balance the home and host compensation packages.

  • The mission’s historic use of cost-of-living data did not reflect the features of their compensation system. For example, they provided a car when necessary and paid all operating costs, but they also paid the missionary as if he were personally operating the car.  Suggestions were made to make adjustments that would lower the inflated cost-of-living differential.

If you are dealing with these or similar problems, ACMin would be pleased to visit with you about solutions.  Call 417-861-9897, or email, and talk to Jerry Burgess.  ACMin can help.