Labor of love? Ministry and the new labor regulations

                 I’ve been hearing rumors of the new regulations starting up December 1st with the Fair Labor Act. It has been hearsay up until last week when I finally got to hear from our Diocese about the matter. I am dismayed at what this means for our Church and field. 
                Churches can’t afford to pay overtime but the amount of time a dedicated minister needs to complete their job is so much more. For those of us who are salaried, we know our bills are paid and time is given by those who drive hard to accomplish what needs to be done. 70-100 hour weeks are not out of the ordinary during the year and a self regulated average of 50 per week is necessary. Measuring out the ebb and flow from week to week would create shortfalls in a personal budget. 
                A church cannot afford to pay that overtime and if they do, the weekly average would be minimal. We are cutting out those who are going above the typical “40 hour work week” which anyone in ministry would know as necessary to accomplish ministry. This is not a typical job. 
                Getting a full time job to open up at many parishes for youth is hard enough before you create disincentives to hire with this. No church is going to pay a full-time salaried staff $47,476 and anyone held to 40 hours is chained. A 25-45k price point is healthy and palatable for our industry. The average youth minister is making 34k nationally already which speaks to what parishes are willing and able to pay. 
                I think this is a disaster for church staff, in particular youth ministers and religious ed directors. I don’t think we should roll over on this and need to make some push back. I don’t think our Church needs more inhibitors but we do need to create the right opportunities and incentives to hire well tuned professionals. Lest we continue the brain drain. This regulation is poorly conceived even for the business world but it certainly wasn’t written with us as a thought. Those who are advocates for such a change will argue that this is a step in the right direction for social justice yet this is a very real example on why it is not. One size does not fit all. I’m sure those in the non-profit world would surely agree but I would love to hear their thoughts as well. Much of this can even apply to entrepreneurs and self-starting employees looking to go places.
                I’ve called my Congressman and the White House already. I suggest we consider a larger pushback. Are there any plans or petitions to stand against this? Would you push back?

2 thoughts on “Labor of love? Ministry and the new labor regulations

  1. I respectfully disagree. As much as I do agree that one size does not fit all with the labor price-floor that the Obama administration has just set, something needed to be done. Wages have been stagnant for years as the cost of living has increased exponentially. Inflation has been stagnant as well but if you take out food and energy, the new CPI, we have seen a steady increase of about 2% annually. People are recovering from the recession and happy to have employment; consumption is up as more people are going back to work, companies can afford to pay their people more, they just won’t, and the labor market isn’t demanding it because we’re all still shaking off the recession. Paying somebody less than $47,000 a year (in any industry, in 2016) and demanding them to work 20+ hours of overtime for the sake of “getting the job done” is abusive and counterproductive; and somebody working 20+ hours of OT is unlikely to push back because that industry is all he/she knows and cannot afford retraining into another industry out of fear of missing rent or losing benefits, people with responsibilities keep their mouths shut and carry on as long as rent gets paid. But that isn’t enough. There are free-riders to the idea of working ridiculous hours too, how many times have you seen someone not doing their job while the one guy in the office does all the work. People will do exactly what they want to do if you let them, and most people want to do nothing. ministry and nonprofit work are the exception, not the rule; but where do we draw the line? This is different than the $15 an hour movement (which is ridiculous, by the way), as people in non-for-profits and ministries do their jobs because they believe in their role in society and in the nature of the work; we need people like that on this planet. But the purpose of a government is to provide for the common good and social welfare of its citizens, and being paid a pittance to work your life away does not do any good for anybody, except the company and free-riders taking full advantage of the situation. Raising the price-floor was inevitable and a long time coming. Wages do not react the same way as prices in the market, they’re sticky and have been stuck for some time now, every once in awhile they need a nudge in the right direction. Unemployment is at it’s lowest levels in a decade, the only way to correct an overheating market is to decrease demand by raising prices; a market correction to equilibrium. Expecting people to work long hours for no pay is against market forces and is only allowed because it appeals to the employee’s benevolence and fear of failure; which breeds abuse, resentment, and corruption. The first rule in public policy and nonprofit work, or any work, is that you can’t do great work if you can’t keep the lights on. It’s time to stop paying people in lip-service and start actually “paying” people, or else you will lose the good people you need to keep the lights on. I am unfamiliar with the world of ministries, but I am an economist and a fiscal conservative; so by definition I should be against price-floors. But if we let markets completely adjust naturally we would have never survived the Great Recession. We gave the labor market time to adjust to it’s natural price level, and it hasn’t. Labor market corrections are like gravity, sometimes they just need a little push.


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