9 Trends in Pastoral and Church Staff Compensation

Many factors go into the the various levels of compensation for pastors and church staff. (iStock photo)

Some of the current trends in pastor and church staff compensation are surprising to me, while others are about what I expected.

I relied on several current compensation studies to assemble these nine trends. I depended most on The 2014-2015 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff by Richard R. Hammar for multiple denominational and non-denominational churches.

For my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, I found the compensation study by GuideStone and LifeWay to be very helpful. There were also six other sources I used to add a few more data points to these trends.

For this article, I will discuss full-time compensated pastors and church staff only. I do have data for part-time compensated staff as well; I will address those church workers in a later post.

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Here, then, are nine major trends I saw in the data:

1. Church income is the biggest factor in the level of compensation at all positions. There is no surprise here. The greater the income of the church, the greater the likelihood that the pastor or church staff receive higher compensation.

2. The second biggest factor in compensation is worship attendance. Of course, these first two factors are related. The greater the attendance, the higher the likelihood of higher church income.

3. Longevity at a particular church is also a factor in compensation at all positions. Though this factor is not as significant as the first two, it is still a noticeable trend.

4. Women earn less than men at all church positions. The discrepancy is big. Women make only 80 percent as much as men in the same role in similar churches.

5. The positions of executive pastor or administrative pastor are now clearly the second highest-paid position. While senior pastors are still the highest paid, the executive pastor or administrative pastor is a close second in many churches.

6. Education is still a factor in compensation for all church positions. While education is not nearly the most significant factor, it still plays a role. Those without a college degree make less than those with a college degree. And those with masters and doctoral degrees have even higher compensation.

7. The setting of the church impacts compensation of all church positions. The highest compensated are in suburbs of a large city followed closely by churches in large cities. Trailing those two, usually significantly, are positions in churches in small towns and rural areas.

8. Geographical region was more indicative for the compensation of senior pastors than other church staff. Senior pastors in New England, the Southeast, and the Southwest were the most highly compensated. I was surprised to see the data for New England senior pastors at the top of the list.

9. Denominational affiliation impacted all church positions. The level of compensation was clearly higher for some denominations compared to others. Going from highest to lowest, here is the relative level of compensation by denomination: Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, independent/non-denominational, and Assemblies of God. Of course this list is not nearly exhaustive.


What questions might you want me to pursue regarding compensation? What can you add to this discussion?

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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