October 2020

A disagreement has arisen between a newly called minister and a congregation. The church is offering a salary for a 20-hour position, yet the scope of work that they have presented will exceed that expected time significantly. The minister has reached out to the COM chair for assistance with this discrepancy.

What is the Committee on Ministry’s role in the negotiation of a call agreement? Although Committees on Ministry do not sign off on agreements, they do have a role in determining whether a particular call meets the Association’s standards of an ordainable or authorizable call, and in supporting appropriate compensation for the scope of work. This may not be a regular occurrence for COMs, but members should nevertheless be aware of what call agreements entail.

MESA provides several resources for this important conversation between incoming ministers and churches. The Call Agreement Workbook provides step-by-step invitations for reflection for each section of the call agreement, asking both sides to realistically consider its needs, resources, and abilities. The Sample Call Agreement models language that may be used for a variety of possible situations, depending on the specific nature of the position and compensation. The Sample Call Agreement also provides a template for language to be included in Conference Compensation Guidelines, which should be reviewed annually (generally in cooperation between the Conference Board of Directors and COM chairs) and shared with Local Churches in time to budget for the upcoming year.

The Sample Call Agreement includes several important faith foundations at the outset meant to guide the process:

  1. Covenant – The minister and congregation are in a mutual relationship where the former will minister faithfully and the latter will compensate fairly.
  2. Stewardship – In this mutual relationship, the minister and congregation will each be responsible for their resources: the former will tend to themselves for continual renewal for service, and the latter will raise and disperse funds to honor the salary and benefits promised to the minister.
  3. Christian Love – The covenant established in a call agreement is based on mutual love and respect, in which all are compensated fairly and without discrimination.

In the spirit of these faith foundations, each section of the call agreement must be carefully considered. Do the salary, housing, and financial benefits seem fair for the expected scope of work, or does one need to be raised or lowered? Additionally, does the salary meet with Conference compensation guidelines, and is this adequate for a professional living in the community where the church is located? Do the time benefits (vacation, sick leave, parental leave, and sabbatical) adequately encourage rest and renewal for the minister? Does the amount of professional ministry expenses provide enough freedom for the minister to continue their professional development and relationship with the wider United Church of Christ?

COM members will need to familiarize themselves with the elements of the call agreement and its faith foundations in anticipation of situations such as the above case study. Potential solutions will involve reminding the church of the call agreement’s basis in Covenant, Stewardship, and Christian Love, and helping advise both participants in pursuing greater fairness and justice in their newly forming mutual relationship, helping to assure its growth.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How would your Committee on Ministry approach the case study above? What elements of the call agreement do you think you’d need to give the greatest attention?
  2. Has your COM ever studied the call agreement as a group? When could you schedule some time during an upcoming meeting to walk through it together?

October 21, 3:00 – 4:30pm ET
Ethics for Retired Pastors Webinar with the Rev. Tara Barber
As Committees on Ministry, it is important to engage with authorized ministers at pivotal life and vocational moments; the transition to retirement is particularly tender as it involves a significant change in both work life and one’s identity as called to serve. It is a time for careful attention and support, clear boundaries and clear communication. This webinar explores best practices for COMs as they work with ministers navigating this life change, including such questions as: how does your committee assist in ritualizing and supporting the transition to retirement (and do you offer this with specialized ministers)? What resources are available to support the transition from leave-taking to thriving in retirement?

October 26, 6:00 – 7:00pm ET
Lay Ministerial Standing Primer with the Rev. Dr. Tony Clark
Lay Ministerial Standing–the newest form of authorization in the UCC—has Committees on Ministry reaching out to MESA for best practices. While Lay Ministerial Standing seemingly overlaps with the former Licensure process as well as the Member in Discernment process, there are some distinct differences. Explore with Rev. Dr. Tony Clark some of the theology and processes that make for best practices for COMs working with Lay Ministerial Standing.

Categories: Column COMma

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