Leader's Insight: 3 Surprises on What Pastors Get Paid
Our research team here at Christianity Today International just finished surveying more than 2,000 churches, and next month, we'll be releasing the most comprehensive, up-to-date church salary survey we've ever done. While The 2008 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff is at the printer, here is a sneak peek at some results:
1. If you want to earn more, change denominations.
Briefly, if you want to earn more as a senior pastor, become a Presbyterian. If you want to earn more as a youth pastor, become a Baptist.
Presbyterian senior pastors earned the most in our survey—their average salary plus housing/parsonage was $78,000, while Baptist senior pastors earned next to last—$67,000. But virtually the opposite was true for youth pastors. Baptist youth pastors earned near the top—$44,000 in salary plus housing, while Presbyterian youth pastors earned near the bottom—$36,000. Why?
The answer comes from two factors: church income and denominational values.
Our research consistently shows that the biggest single factor in determining any pastor's pay is the church's income. And among churches with senior pastors, Presbyterian churches have the highest-reported church income, so some of that gets passed along to their senior pastors.
But among churches with youth pastors, Baptist churches and Presbyterian churches have virtually identical church income. So they could pay their youth pastors equally, if they wished. Apparently, though, Baptist churches value youth ministry more, because they pay their youth pastors 20 percent more.
2. Female solo pastors earn more than male solo pastors.
Okay, so there aren't many female solo pastors; in American churches responding to our survey, only six percent of solo pastors are women. Still, it's intriguing that female solo pastors reported 10.4 percent higher total compensation. Their average salary was 8.6 percent higher than men's ($49,219 compared to $45,259); and better housing and retirement benefits made up the rest. Why the difference? Why do female solo pastors earn, for total compensation (includes health insurance, retirement, and continuing education), $62,472, when their male counterparts earn $56,558?
My first hypothesis went like this: "Since there are precious few women hired as senior pastors—only 2.5 percent, in our research—women stay in solo pastorates longer, and their longevity leads to higher pay." But that hypothesis doesn't hold up: for solo pastors, the number of years served makes next to no difference in pay.
The more-likely explanation is regional. We know that solo pastors receive the highest pay in the New England and Pacific states (not surprisingly, given the higher cost of living in these regions). And these regions probably have the greatest cultural acceptance of women serving as solo pastors. Thus, women solo pastors tend to find work in regions with a high cost of living, and consequently, get a higher salary.
And before we assume that the church runs counter to the still-prevalent cultural practice of paying women less than men for comparable work, women were paid less than men in every other church position surveyed (except for secretary). On average, females earned approximately 80 percent of the compensation of males. Or, in other words, males earned about 30 percent more than females.