This report is presented to promote the development of Hindu Temples in America by improving their level of managerial professionalism, including the selection and compensation of specialized staff members. This report recommends that temple boards of directors study and adopt the methods used by established religious institutions that have developed a reputation for professionalism, strategic management and long-term growth including Christian Churches and Jewish Synagogues.
Board members and staff are the “face” of the organization. How they conduct their duties is of great importance to the long-term health of the religious organization. Poorly managed Hindu Temples not only undermine their own long-term growth, but also undermind the cause of Hindu dharma throughout the world. Every Hindu Temple must develop a management standard that avoids these problems at all costs.
This report is therefore written to benefit both sides of the management/labor issue: namely the board of directors that are charged with the responsibility to run the religious organizations, and the staff who are expected to adhere to professional levels of performance.
In the United States, over 90% of the clergy in all major religions are college graduates with almost 60% holding masters degrees or higher. Priests are trained not only in ritual and language but management, counseling, and theology. In general a priest in the American religious community is not only a respected member of society but also a learned practitioner of that religious tradition. A priest is genuinely spiritual and feels that his or her ordination is a “calling from God.” The priest serves the community as a first priority. The priest is an dedicated worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty. In the Christian and Jewish traditions the typical priest or rabbi is seen as a tireless preacher, teacher, minister, counselor, fundraiser and administrator. Nothing less should be expected of a Hindu priest.
While most of the priest’s salaries in this report are much higher than those presently being offered in Hindu temples, temple managers must realize that if they wish to operate their religious institution on a professional level, they must be prepared to hire qualified priests and management staff. This means that priest salaries must be high enough to provide not only a viable living, but also a reasonable standard to attract quality individuals. The positive side is that quality priests and management staff members will ultimately increase contributions to the temple. Qualified priests and other staff provide the organization with a reputation for being conscientious and professional.
Many donors demand a high level of performance. They are impatient with sloth and amateurism. They will support only those organizations that consistently produce results . Therefore, the real competitors to any mandir are not other religious institutions, but the less tangible adversaries of distrust, criticism, inertia, lack of cleanliness, and confusion.
Staff Job Descriptions and Salary Ranges
The salary ranges in this report are based on The 2001 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff by Church Law & Tax Report. This handbook is a data survey from over 2,000 United States religious institutions including Christian Churches, Jewish Synagogues. The survey information was obtained between January, 2000 and April, 2000. Comparisons were made regarding church attendance, income, and setting, and priests’ gender, education and years employed.
The survey did not take into account differences in the cost of living from one part of the country to another. For example, Riverside California, a mid-size city near Los Angeles, has a cost of living that is 10.60% higher than the national average for general workers and 28.03% higher for executive workers.
Items that make up the salary averages include base salary, housing, retirement (not including social security payments), life insurance, health insurance, vacations, auto allowance, and education funds (amount provided for continuing education). The average annual increase for priest’s salaries was 5-6%.
Most Hindu temples will have the following four categories of paid staff positions:
1. Senior Priest(s)
2. Assistant Priest(s)
1. Senior Priest
The 2000 national average salary for a 40 hour work week of a senior priest was $66,096 with 3-4 weeks vacation and an average annual increase of 5-6%. This amount represents compensation for priests who serve full-time and includes base salary, housing, retirement (not including social security payments), life insurance, health insurance, vacation, auto allowance, and education funds (amount provided for continuing education).
In 2000 approximately 85% of senior priests were married ministers with families and earned between $50,000 and $82,101. The salary of a Catholic priest who has taken a vow of celibacy and a vow of poverty (comparable to a sannyasin) averaged $29,698.
Annual Senior Priest Compensation–Averages by Education.
Over 92% were college graduates, 42% held master’s degrees and 20% held doctoral degrees.
Five-Year Compensation Trend: United States National Average for Pastors
In addition, sabbaticals are generally offered to senior priests. A sabbatical is an extended leave of absence during which a priest is allowed to pursue writing, education, or other religious related activities. Religious institutions that provide a priest with a sabbatical usually continue his compensation in whole or in part during the absence. The length of the sabbatical is based on number of years employed and dedication of the priest.
The objective behind a sabbatical is that a priest needs time to refresh himself periodically with a leave of absence for rest, introspection and spiritual growth. Commenting on the importance of the religious sabbatical one religious commentator states, “In general priests have an excessive, compulsive absorption in work, and tend to neglect their personal needs. . . . Diversity of expectations is a common factor, a priest is expected to be spiritually deep, theologically wise and fiscally clever, while being good at preaching to the young and old. Each person in the congregation expects only a limited something, but the conglomeration can be overwhelming. . . . We need to install mechanisms for preventative care and guided growth, with procedures for intervention before stress leads to burnout and crisis.” A sabbatical is one mechanism to avoid these pitfalls.
Description of duties for Senior Priests
• Performing and overseeing of daily pujas and daily operations of Mandir
• Organizing and teaching of classes including Bal Vihar, Teen classes, Adult and Senior’s classes.
• Arranging and organizing Sunday programs and other regular festivals including monthly Durga pujas and Janmasthami, etc.
• Arranging for and providing weekly pravacans (lectures).
• Greeting, teaching, and visiting various outside groups including educational, religious and civic organizations.
• Overseeing altar maintenance and cleaning.
• Counseling, including bereavement and marriage.
• Hospital visitation.
• Overseeing assistant priests and volunteers.
• Assisting in fundraising.
•Participating in special projects including construction, library development, various promotionals, etc.
•Attending management meetings.
•Creating and overseeing Mandir publications: newsletters, advertisements, yearbooks, etc.
•Public relations–meeting with newspaper reporters.
• Overseeing special events such as summer camps, variety cultural show, etc.
•On call in emergencies.
The national average of compensation in 2000 for full-time assistant priests was $51,973 with 2-3 weeks vacation and an average annual increase of 5%. This amount represents compensation for priests who serve full-time and includes base salary, housing allowance, retirement contribution, life and health insurance payments, and educational funds.
Annual Assistant Priest Compensation–Averages by Education.
In 2000 approximately 90% of Assistant Priests were college graduates, 46% held master’s degrees and 11% held doctoral degrees.
Description of duties for Assistant Priest
• Performance of daily pujas
• Greeting visitors.
• Maintaining and cleaning of altars.
• Decorating for special festivals.
• Maintanence of altar supplies and altar storage facilities
• Opening and closing Mandir.
• Hospital visitation
• Outside pujas, including weddings and funerals, etc.
• Counseling, including bereavement and marriage (if qualified)
• Assisting in teaching classes
• On call in emergencies.
The national 2000 average for compensation paid to full-time bookkeepers was $27,992. Most part-time bookkeepers worked about 19-29 hours per week and earned an average of $10.52 to 12.09 per hour. With the example Riverside 10.6% cost of living increase that would make the salary $30,959.
Full-time secretaries earned $21,965. Most part-time secretaries worked over 30 hours per week and earned an average of $8.15 to 12.22 per hour. With the example Riverside 10.6% cost of living increase that would make the salary $24,293.
A secretary should be knowledgeable in all necessary computer skills including word processing, accounting, database and simple page layout applications.
Description of Secretarial duties
• Entering financial data
• Answering the telephone
• Organizing the office
• Purchasing of office and custodial supplies
• Organizing fund-raising mailers and other promotionals
• Preparing minutes to meetings
• Mailing/faxing announcements for meetings
• Assisting senior priest in various management duties such as correspondence, insurance, real estate and legal issues
• Paying routine bills
• Preparing thank you notes to donors
• Preparing routine flyers and advertisements
• Maintaining mailing lists.
• Printing address labels.
• Maintaining library catalog .
• Preparing sustaining membership mailer
• Public relations: notify newspapers of upcoming events and preparation of press releases, etc.
Custodians includes cleaning staff, handyperson, and security and parking attendant. Each of these positions could be filled by separate individuals or one person. If one person filled all of these duties then the position would be full-time. If each position was fill separately then the positions should be considered part-time and compensated accordingly.
The national 2000 average for compensation paid to full-time custodians was $26,161. Most part-time custodians worked about 16 hours per week and earned an average of $8.74 to 10.79 per hour. With the example Riverside 10.6% cost of living increase that would make the salary $28,934.
Description of duties:
• General cleaning: bathrooms, kitchen, carpets, floors, trash, siderooms, etc.
• Deep cleaning: windows, cobwebs, kitchen.
• Small and medium maintenance including painting, changing locks, replacing light bulbs, plumbing drains, etc.
• Setup for festivals
• Setup and take down of tables, chairs and stage.
• Cleaning parking lot
• Care of lawns and flowerbeds, etc.
Security and parking attendant.
• Opening and closing Mandir.
• Directing traffic and parking during Mandir functions.
Board members and staff are the “face” of the organization. How they conduct their duties is of great importance to the long-term health of the religious organization. Poorly managed Hindu Temples not only undermine their own long-term growth, but also undermind the cause of Hindu dharma throughout the world.
Many donors demand a high level of performance. They are impatient with sloth and amateurism. They will support only those organizations that consistently produce results.
The real competitors to any mandir are not other religious institutions, but the less tangible adversaries of distrust, criticism, inertia, lack of cleanliness, and confusion.
*The Church and Clergy Tax Guide $17.95. A must for mandirs and priests. It contains complete and extensive information on all major tax issues that affect churches and clergy. Updated annually.
Compensation Handbook for Church Staff by Church Law & Tax Report. This handbook is a data survey from over 2,000 United States religious institutions including Christian Churches, Jewish Synagogues.