Developing terms of call or a letter of appointment for a minister

Defining terms of call and letters of appointment

The terms of call refers to the documented relationship between a parish and a minister.  It covers such things as:

  • The size of the charge (full-time/part-time)
  • The start date and length of the call
  •  Stipend, expenses, leave
  • Any other additional points the parish and minister may have agreed on.

A letter of appointment is the name given to a terms of call document for a minister going into a cooperative venture.

The standard terms of call are the minimum terms for a stipended call and can be found in section 2.6 of the Conditions of Service Manual. 

Isn’t that just another name for an employment agreement?

No.  The relationship between the Presbyterian Church and its ministers is different from the relationship between an employer and employee.  It is not appropriate to offer an employment agreement to an ordained minister for a ministry role. Further information is found in chapter 6 of Book Of Order.

Who do the terms of call apply to?

Terms of call apply to national and local ordained ministers called to a stipended position.

What about other ministry roles?

Currently Amorangi are not paid a stipend.  However, if their pastorate were to pay their Amorangi a stipend the standard terms of call would apply.

Members of local ministry teams are not ordained but commissioned therefore they are not eligible for a stipend.

Lay workers/ministers (which may include youth ministers, families’ workers and others in pastoral roles) are not ordained and are not eligible for a stipend.  They should be placed on an employment agreement that includes a ministry expectation document setting out their specific tasks and responsibilities to the parish or presbytery.

Who can create a terms of call/letter of appointment?

Terms of call for a call are initially developed by the ministry settlement board for approval by the parish and the presbytery.  The final terms of call/letter of appointment is developed by negotiation with the minister considering the call.

Where the terms of call are for a new position, the parish would draw up proposed terms for the approval of presbytery.  NB: Presbytery approval is required for all stipended positions – including stated supply.

What do I need to include in a terms of call/letter of appointment?

The first step is to read sections 2.5 and 2.6 of the Conditions of Service Manual which sets out the basic things to be considered.  You then need to draw up a letter which sets out what has been agreed with the minister using the following headings as a guide:

  • Tenure (i.e. start date and length of call)
  • Any review periods (NB: cooperative ventures have different requirements to Presbyterian parishes)
  • Standard terms:
    • Stipend (parishes can pay up to 20% more without presbytery approval)
    • Expense allowance
    • Car allowance
    • Removal expenses
    • Manse and furnishings
    • Telephone/Internet
    • Secretarial assistance
    • Four weeks’ leave plus 11 statutory holidays, sick and bereavement leave
    • Study leave (including the specific amount the minister will be carrying over from their last charge)
  • Hours of work (part-time, full-time, “weekend” days if already agreed)
  • Housing (manse, housing allowance – rate)
  • Beneficiary Fund (required for national ordained ministers)
  • Training and development budget

The last step is to include an area where the Presbytery Moderator and the minister being called can confirm their agreement with the terms set out.

It is important to emphasise that not all of these headings will be used for every call.  If the terms will be the standard terms then it may only be necessary to provide a brief statement to this effect and only document in detail those things that are not covered: tenure, number of hours’ secretarial assistance to be provided, amount of study leave being carried over and that the minister will be in a manse (rather than receive a housing allowance) etc. 

The purpose of the terms of call/letter of appointment document is to clearly set out what has been agreed to so that there are no misunderstandings later on.

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