Research on Lay Ministry Compensation

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Sun, 05/01/1988

In recent years, lay ministers have joined parish and diocesan staffs in large numbers. According to C. Michael Liberato, both the need to attract quality applicants to church positions and fidelity to Catholic social teaching require the provision of just wages and benefits to lay employees. With the assistance of a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Liberato launched a three-stage project designed to provide church leaders with guidance on employee compensation issues. In the first phase of the project, researchers surveyed approximately one thousand lay employees in order to determine their job descriptions and current levels of compensation. The surveys also probed lay employees' financial needs and mobility patterns. Next, the research team attempted to establish the "comparable worth" of lay church positions by using a classification system and Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. However, this effort was complicated by the fact that the responsibilities attached to church positions with the same title varied widely among respondents. The project's third phase, which began concurrently with the first phase, involved convening a steering committee of representatives from the major bodies of American men and women religious and important organizations of lay church employees. Based on the results of the survey research and its members' insights into Catholic social teaching, the steering committee formulated a series of recommendations which were issued in the 1990 report, "Just Wages and Benefits for Lay and Religious Church Employees."