Mr. Lee Daub was my teacher for both fourth and fifth grade. He had a presence that instantly earned my respect. He was quiet, even-tempered, and seemed to know everything. Of course, I was in elementary school, limiting my perspective. One day, as part of a science experiment, he had us make a camera out of a Quaker Oats tube using a pinhole. It wasn’t an Ansel Adams quality piece, but it actually worked – we took a picture with an oat tube. From that point on, photography interested me. In high school, the photography class taught me how to open a 35mm film canister, spool, and develop it. Then, we learned how to use the negatives to enlarge and crop the image onto a photo paper. Today, we simply grab our smartphones, use a few editing apps, and create things we never dreamed of back then. One of the reasons that photographs fascinated me then, and still do today, is that the photographer decides what part of the image is important enough to see.
One of the most searched topics regarding church budgets is compensation. It seems everyone wants to know if their church is out of alignment when it comes to paying their staff. The obvious metric is finding healthy church compensation percentages. I’ve written a few posts on this topic, like How Much Should the Church Budget Dedicated to Compensation? If you read this post to get the percentage, here you go: healthy churches spend 45%-55% of the total church operating budget on compensation. While this is an important metric, more is needed to give the complete picture, a bit like a cropped photograph. Before your church makes staffing decisions, be sure to look at the unedited picture first. Several items in the budget can skew the compensation percentages, like the amount allocated to rent or mortgage costs. A high mortgage payment can deflate the compensation percentage. Conversely, a low mortgage or paid-off facility will inflate the compensation percentage. Don’t let a cropped version of the picture impact crucial decisions; see the entire picture.
Staff to Congregation Ratio
Sometimes, taking a picture from a different angle of the subject gives a fresh perspective. I’ve often found that putting the camera lower makes a more interesting picture when taking outdoor photos, especially at the beach. Instead of just using percentages, get a different perspective on the compensation picture; add a staff-to-congregation ratio to the analysis. Experts in the church staffing arena, like Chemistry Staffing and The Unstuck Group, use a formula that determines the number of FTEs (Full-Time Equivalent Employees) and measures that number against the size of the congregation. Prior to 2020, most healthy churches had an FTE-to-congregation ratio of 75:1. However, the post-pandemic world has fewer volunteers serving at churches, causing staffing levels to rise and moving that ratio considerably lower. Using pre- vs. post-pandemic statistics is another example of the importance of not looking at an edited version of the photo to make crucial staffing decisions.
Today’s technology allows us to perform tasks quicker and easier than ever before. Digital photography allows everyone to create dynamic pictures at their fingertips. For churches trying to align their compensation budget, they need to use the whole picture that the data provides. Compensation percentages provide one aspect, and FTE-to-congregation delivers another. Churches need to see the full, unedited image of both these metrics along with the other elements, like facility costs and attendance trends, before making compensation adjustments. We’ve come a long way since the oatmeal tube camera; let’s use it to our advantage.short url: