Compensation and Staffing News
UUA Office of Church Staff Finances Mission
Guided by the values of our faith,
we equip congregations for excellence as employers
and their staff for financial competence and well-being.
March 2020

In some email readers, you may need to click on continuation dots to read the entirety of each article.
Professional Expense Budget: A Vocational Lifeline
Your staff are leaders, modelers, and tone-setters for your congregation. Well-equipped, spirit-filled staff provide consistent, skilled, accountable leadership.This in turn helps build ownership among members, enabling congregations to thrive.

Professional leadership in a congregational setting is complex and ever-changing: religious life is shifting in society, congregational needs are evolving, innovations are tried and shared, and new best practices emerge. To serve confidently and faithfully, staff must be intentional about their professional growth, and they need support and encouragement from their congregations for their ongoing formation. In addition to strengthening the ministries of the congregation, regular professional development averts burnout, amplifies professionalism, and reinforces collegial relationships through shared learning.

On our Benefit Recommendations page, you'll find the following professional expense line recommendations:
  • Ministers: the greater of $8,000, prorated for part-time, OR 10% of salary + housing
  • Professional staff (both administrative and program staff): the greater of $5,000, prorated for part-time, OR 10% of salary
  • Other staff: appropriate continuing education funds

T hese recommendations are not absolutes, but they provide a reasonable starting point. A few considerations:
  • Make sure that your professional staff are funded for membership in their respective professional organizations: AUUA (administrators), AUUMM (music leaders), LREDA (religious educators), UUAMP (membership staff), and UUMA (ministers). In addition to the many direct benefits for the staff member, professional organization membership helps your congregation – not only through the staff member's enhanced leadership but by holding them accountable to articulated professional standards.
  • Take into account individual staff members' learning goals and needs.
  • Consider their level of involvement in professional activities beyond the congregation.
  • Support staff of color in attending the Finding Our Way Home retreat.
  • Encourage team learning. It can be very powerful for two or more coworkers to participate in a continuing education experience together.

An expense line is truly a vocational lifeline for many staff. Professional organization listservs and resources allow counterparts across the Association to find solutions to everyday (and not so everyday) challenges. Attending continuing education events deepens commitment, as well as relationships, while building skills and knowledge. Maintaining subscriptions and buying books on relevant topics keep your staff current in these times of change.

If our recommendations feel out of reach, can you move in the right direction? Supervisors, in a supervisory meeting or in the context of your performance evaluation process, have a conversation with each of your staff about possible areas of growth and learning. How can you support them?
Congregations as Employers: Now on LeaderLab
LeaderLab is the one-stop shop for the needs of congregational lay leaders. Check out the new section dedicated to Congregations As Employers for information on UUA Compensation Standards and benefit plans, resources for hiring and supporting staff, and much more. You'll want to bookmark this page!

Looking for something specific and not sure where to find it? Search the LeaderLab Library by title, keyword, category, or author.

Along with the section with employer resources, LeaderLab contains sections for boards, leadership development, finance, and other areas of church leadership.  Take a video tour of LeaderLab!
When Staff Get Sick
Whether it's out of a sense of responsibility and commitment or because they are relying on the income (or both), staff members sometimes come to work when they are sick and potentially contagious. How can your congregation, as an employer, encourage self-care and minimize the spread of illness while still providing services and meeting the needs of your members?

Sense of Responsibility
Do staff feel compelled to show up because they have essential responsibilities? Establish a culture in which staff are confident that things will be alright without them. This can be a great topic for a staff team meeting. Here are a few ideas:
  • Cross-train staff and/or equip volunteers to serve as backups for key functions.
  • Have honest conversations about what is truly necessary. (Maybe some things won't happen, or they will happen at a different time or in a different way from what people are used to.)
  • Make it as easy as possible for staff to work from home, if they feel well enough to do so. Is there a laptop available if they need one?
  • Hold meetings remotely (or make remote participation possible) for staff who are under the weather but want to participate.
  • Have contingency plans for Sunday morning worship and religious education, designed for days when key leaders are absent at the last minute. (A printed sermon in the pulpit; preparations for a hymn-sing or other nonstandard worship format; a simple children's chapel script and/or faith formation lessons, including supplies.)
  • Reassure staff that it is okay not to attend a professional event if they are under the weather and/or concerned about travel risks. Yes, there could be nonrefundable costs involved. Make every effort to restore the expense line (see lead article, above) so that the funds can be repurposed at a later time.

Reliance on Income
Are staff inclined to come to work sick because they need the income? How can this be addressed? Again, some thoughts to get you started:
  • Review your sick leave policies – and grant some leeway. If someone isn't feeling well but hasn't accrued sufficient paid sick leave, how about paying them anyhow? This could mean providing an "advance" on their sick leave and/or suspending regular policy limits during times of higher risk.
  • Remember that an employee can use sick leave to care for an immediate family member's illness – another reason to lean into generosity.
  • Be flexible. Can the staff member make up the time and tasks on another day?
  • An employee may feel well enough to work but doesn't want to put others at risk. Can you make it possible for them to work from home or at off-hours?

Your members are looking to their religious community for comfort and support in these unpredictable and unsettling times. With respect to COVID-19, you might (or might not) be making hard decisions and taking out-of-the-ordinary actions in the weeks ahead as you strive to ensure the health and safety of staff and members alike. Your staff, as a team, will be key players in discerning, communicating, and implementing the path forward. Caring for your staff is an opportunity to model your values and spirit for the congregation, to demonstrate the flexibility, creativity, resilience, and kindness that these days ask of us.

We encourage you to pay attention to reliable sources of information (not questionable sources) and to take common-sense precautions. Thank you for attending to the well-being of those you employ.

Stay Informed
Supplement these COVID-19-related resources with current information from official, trusted local sources:
UUA Office of Church Staff Finances
24 Farnsworth Street | Boston, MA 02210