I asked for a raise. 

The church where I work struggles financially.  I have a lot of pretty good theroies about why this is.  Mainly, though, I’d characterise the problem with money the same way as I’d characterise the problem with the church at large: a lack of vision.  Sermons are less than thoughtful.  Ministries are run by the same increasingly fatigued people.  A few people take a few not-so-good ideas and run with them in the absence of any sort of unifying or clarifying goal for the congregation.  Not enough butts in the seats cause offering plates to be much emptier than anyone would prefer.  These problems are the very opposite of my fault.

I am, by no one’s tally, paid what I deserve.  I put in more hours than I am paid for, and I am, quite simply, very good at my job.  The conference mandates what the pastor must be paid, but they’re indifferent to my paycheck, so at the end of each month, I’m pretty indifferent toward it as well.   The church’s largest expense is the pastor’s salary, insurance, retirement, and utilities. The second largest is our contribution to the denomination’s ministries.  The third largest is the church building’s utilities.  My slice of the pie chart is only slightly larger than that of copy paper.  I am a way to save money, as if I am the Equate Brand Secretary you pick up at Wal-Mart.   Sometimes I feel pretty lousy about that.  Other times, though, I feel lucky to do a job I pretty much love with people I also pretty much love and get paid for it at all.  Plus, there’re the previously mentioned cookies.

Mmm.  Cookies.  Today they were peanut butter with Hershey’s kisses on the top.  I ate one.  Church Lady with the Cookies wanted me to eat two more.  I restrained myself.

I worked in an antique store for a couple of years and never once received a raise.  Health insurance premiums went up while I worked there, and my bosses, who paid for my insurance, explained that my ongoing insurance coverage was my raise.  That is, after I timidly dropped hints on the subject for several months.  Since then, I have been asked about my beginning and ending salaries at various job interviews.  I see a look on interviewers’ faces that seems to say “well, you must’ve sucked at selling antiques if you never got a raise.”  I didn’t suck at selling antiques.  I thought it sucked, you know, as a job.  But I was more than competent.  Quick! Ask me about vintage European light fixtures.  Anything.  I have answers.  Oh so many answers.

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided the last thing my resume needs is another job with the same beginning and ending salary.  I called the finance committee chairperson and explained my situation.  I told her I wanted my hours increased and, if that wasn’t possible, I’d like a minimum of a three percent raise.  She thinks that I’ll need to make a pitch to the whole committee but that it may be possible to squeeze some more cash out of the budget for me. 

This has been an ethical delima for some time.  In the end, though, I’ve decided that church work is a sacrifice.   But it’s as unreasonable for me to sacrifice my over all career trajectory for the sake of the church budget as it is for me to ruin my weekend plans for the sake of Church Guy and his badly punctuated website.

Before asking for my raise, I asked a couple of people whom I trust very much what they thought about it.  One woman said sourly that if the pastor knew his business, he’d pay part of my salary out of his because I was worth more than he is.  I do not have quite enough chutzpah to ask for that I’m afraid.  Or to repeat that proclamation outside of my super secret blog.