The most common response to the question… “How would you define your compensation philosophy” would be a shrug of the shoulders and a “We have just been tweaking the system that has been in place for 40 years.” When asked if they have based their system on a “Needs-Based” Philosophy, we get yet another shoulder shrug. Many of the unusual characteristics of most missionary compensation systems is based on a philosophy that the mission does not understand, and indeed could not support other than to say that… “Everyone is doing it.” This needed awareness is most often absent, and is largely neglected The following considerations should be incorporated into EVERY agency’s practices.
That descriptive title probably needs no explanation.
NOTE: This is not legal advice. We are not attorneys. Misuse of this information can place an agency at risk. Before basing your procedures on this information, consult with ACMin and/or your attorney.
Many agencies presently, or in the past have:
Answer: Needs-Based Compensation
In the few cases addressing the issue, courts have concluded that because ministers are the “lifeblood” of the church, any state interference in the relationship would violate the religion clauses of the First Amendment. That proposition was first articulated by the Fifth Circuit in McClure v Salvation Army.**
The minister is the chief instrument by which the church seeks to fulfill its purpose. Matters touching this relationship must necessarily be recognized as of prime ecclesiastical concern. (From EEOC website)
What is that saying?
So, can we totally disregard labor laws in the treatment of our missionary ministers?
“Totally” is a bit strong. But, it seems to be largely so, if we have a ministry reason. But be careful – and DOCUMENT.
If this is done wrong, we are very vulnerable to challenge.
Elements Such As:
In order to minimize the risk of successful challenge, and to better communicate compensation to donors, a good understanding of these factors is needed, and practices MUST agree with documented policies.
ALWAYS go through the process of calculating the default compensation package.
NEVER do a “needs” adjustment, based on employee’s inability to raise funds.
If reductions are indicated, give three options:
Insist missionaries talk to you about what their needs really are.
Provide periodic windows to revisit need factor.
As you can see, these are very complex issues. As such it is probably one of the most neglected areas in missions administration. Call us at 417-861-9897 or email firstname.lastname@example.org