Because of my experience working with ministers and churches wading through staff termination scenarios, I routinely receive inquiries regarding severance packages. There was one today in fact. The requests are split between churches in the midst of a separation and churches developing proactive guidelines.
So how does this work in the world of ministry? Are there guidelines for clergy separation agreements and severance packages? Yes, there are standards. While the specifics differ from denomination to denomination and church to church, I’ve noticed these guidelines:
- Salary is typically calculated at one month for every year of service up to six months. Some churches are more generous and others less. This is a rule of thumb.
- Benefits like insurance and retirement are calculated according to the salary schedule.
- Unused vacation and other time benefits are paid in addition to the salary severance calculation.
- Often there are clauses for counseling, re-training, and relocations expenses depending on the context.
- If the minister lives in church owned housing, the parsonage is typically made available as long as the severance agreement is in effect.
I’ve noticed over the years that the congregations who exercise generosity in the midst of difficult situations fare better than those who do not. Generosity isn’t always easy – it’s just the right thing to do.
If you’d like a copy of a sample separation agreement or if you have questions about a particular situation, please contact me.