Agreement of Understanding
Before a new senior pastor begins serving a congregation, the cluster leader will make sure an Agreement of Understanding is signed between the pastor and church. This is not a contract. It is a document that sets forth the details of employment at that church, and is signed by the pastor, the board chairman, and the cluster leader. The intent is to prevent future problems of misunderstanding.
Sometimes, surprises emerge because details were not discussed or put into writing.
- The pastor did not know that the church had a policy against pets in the parsonage, and the family dog is an important member of the family.
- The pastor planned to do additional graduate work, but the board was surprised to learn this.
- The pastor had a different perception regarding health insurance coverage.
- The church leadership expected the pastoral couple to put their children into the public school system, but the pastor and spouse are into home schooling.
- The pastor mistakenly thought that the local church would pay moving expenses. The board of administration thought the pastor would pay them.
An agreement of understanding deals with the following kinds of issues.
- Starting date for employment.
- Frequency of paychecks—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly.
- The amount of social security paid.
- Health insurance. The premium, who is covered, what the coverage involves.
- Disability insurance.
- Pension. A specific amount that the church will pay should be stated.
- Housing. Will the church provide a parsonage or provide a housing allowance that will enable the pastor to lease or purchase his home?
- Utilities. What utilities will the church pay as part of the housing package?
- Expenses. The details of the expense reimbursement plan.
- Vacation. The number of weeks of vacation, how vacation days are earned, and how vacation time is to be communicated to the church.
- Continuing education budget.
- The moving arrangements (rental truck, professional mover) and who is responsible for paying the moving expenses.
- Professional ministry expenses. What professional ministry expenses will the church cover?
- Mileage. What is the mileage rate for travel connected with the ministry of the church? Is there a maximum number of miles reimbursed each year? What are other legitimate travel expenses connected with ministry?
- If the position is part-time, how many hours is the pastor expected to be involved in ministry? (Some churches expect fulltime work for part-time pay.) How many hours will the pastor be permitted to work outside the church when the position is part-time