How much should we Pay our Pastor?

How much should we pay our Pastor? It’s a question that gets sent my way quite frequently. Unfortunately the question beneath the question is usually, “How little can we pay our staff to get them and keep them?” You’ve probably heard the old adage “Let the church keep the Pastor poor and God keep him humble.” There seems to be some general fear that if a pastor makes a good or comfortable livelihood that they will somehow be worse at their job. In taking a quick look at national numbers though you’ll see that few pastors are actually paid an unreasonably high salary. But what is reasonable?

When coming up with a salary for your pastoral staff, make sure you consider the size and location of the Church as well as the education and experience of the Staff Member. Other factors that come into play are longevity in the role and overall value to the Church. An overlooked concept that should factor into the salary is the “replacement cost.” If that staff member left, what would it cost to replace them? Another way to think about this is by considering the mean income of the congregants in your church or the mean income level of the board of the church. It would also be worth considering what the income level is like at a similar organization (size, operating budget, number of staff, assets, impact, non-profit) that offers similar services or is under similar circumstances.

Here are three resources that may help along the way:

1. Leadership Network: Large Church Salary Report

2. National Association of Church Business Administration: Ministry Pay Church Salary Survey

3. LifeWay: Southern Baptist Convention Compensation Study

Interested in a customized report for your church? The Vanderbloemen Search Group and Leadership Network would be happy to help you with that project.

Posted in Staffing

2 Responses to “How much should we Pay our Pastor?”

  1. Bill Weisler December 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    This is always a fun issue to deal with. There are many cases were pastors are over paid, but many more where they are under paid. Pastors are motivators, and pastors of large churches are successful motivators because of their beliefs and working with the talent that God has given them. Their compensation should reflect their ability to acknowledge what God has given them and their efforts for the furthering of God’s kingdom.

    Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 9: 12-18 that anyone who works for the gospel has the right to earn their living from the gospel. But he then suggests that the reward is the compensation. This is why he is adamant about giving it freely.. “If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.”

    So beyond the compensation, pastors must always remember that while the majority of their time is spent at church and under God’s service, there must still be an element of sacrifice for the sake of God’s kingdom that goes beyond their normal duties.

  2. Steve Cooper August 27, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    You can easily jangle a few nerves with this topic. We have friends that think every church leader should be a tent maker, a bi-vocational worker, giving their ministry away. We sure have come a long way from the lifestyle of antiquity that Paul and Timothy lived in, but we have not evolved beyond the issues. We still have them. Here’s a related tragic story. A pastor told us once that if he could make as much money doing something else, he’d be gone from the church in a flash. I doubt that he told his board that. The organized, established church is in much trouble in many places, whether large or small. I’m glad you used the term impact in your list of criteria. Regardless of whether we pay a leader or not, should we not expect that he is fulfilling the promise? In the case of Sun Valley, are people meeting, getting to know, and following Jesus? If so, it’s priceless.

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