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Salary and Fair Compensation for Congregational Staff

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Principles of Fair Compensation call congregations to compensate all staff within the Salary Range of the Unitarian UUA Fair Compensation Guidelines program. For ordained clergy, the salary is comprised of salary including housing.

The UUA Recommended Salary Ranges are based on wage rates (not cost-of-living) in communities across the United States. Communities are assigned one of seven Geographic (Geo) Indices based on wages paid in that community.  

The following files are in PDF format unless otherwise indicated.

Wage Ranges

  • The recommended Salary Range tables have been developed to assist local congregations offer compensation linked to the wage rates and labor costs in their local economy. The minimum, midpoint, and maximum of the ranges are not intended to limit congregational decisions. It is not assumed that all new professional employees will begin at the minimum of a range. Previous experience and educational achievement should be taken into consideration when setting salaries. Also, a higher rate of pay is appropriate for those with longer service or who demonstrate exceptional abilities or contributions to the congregation's well-being.
  • All recommendations assume full-time employment of 40 hours per week and should be prorated for individuals working part-time.
  • The Salary Recommendations are salary only (salary including housing for ministers) and do not include any benefits (life, long-term disability, dental, and health insurance (all employees working more than 750 hours annually); retirement contribution (for all employees working 1,000 hours annually after one year of service); payment-in-lieu of the employer share of FICA (ministers only); and professional expenses (all religious professionals).
  • Typically, effectively performing employees are at the midpoint of a range within three to five years.

Annual Salary Adjustments

Measurements such as the cost-of-living index and employment-cost index should be taken into account annually to ensure that staff does not experience a decline in real wages over time. No salary recommendations should outlast the naturally changing wage patterns in the economy or inflation. The "UUA Recommended Salary Ranges" do not factor in the "cost-of-living," but are wage-based. Congregations often ask how to make annual salary adjustments.

Many congregations increase ministerial and staff salaries annually considering:

  1. merit increases
  2. cost-of-living adjustments.

During calendar year 2015, the national Consumer Price Index increased 0.1 percent. This is based on national cost-of-living statistics. Regional changes vary and can be found on the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Labor Department.

Work Hours

Ministers and other religious professionals often work irregular hours, so expectation of a typical 9 to 5 workday is unrealistic. Some individuals use a unit-based system that counts each morning, afternoon, or evening devoted to congregational duties as a unit. Twelve units per week equal full-time service. Religious professionals are defined here as ordained ministers, directors of religious education, music directors, and exempt business administrators. It is important that all congregational staff are compensated for all time worked and are not asked to volunteer hours in addition to their paid employment.

Developing the UUA Salary Recommendations

The 2014 Salary Recommendations were developed through a process that included a comparative wage analysis using data obtained from three national sources—the most prominent of which is ERI, Inc. ERI uses census, federal wage surveys, and other wage data for their database. ERI data is also used to assign Geo Indices to each congregation. Beginning in 2015, the Office of Church Staff Finances will request all congregations to submit an annual “Staffing and Compensation Report.” The aggregate information derived from this initiative will be shared with participating congregations.

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