Five Most Common Ways Churches Determine Pastors’ Salaries

There has been considerable interest on my previous posts dealing with pastors’ salaries. One of the most common questions that I am asked is: “How do churches determine the salary of a pastor?”

In this article, I offer the five most common ways churches establish the pay level of a pastor. I am offering these five approaches from an informational perspective rather than evaluating them. Also, many churches use some combination of these factors.

  1. The pastor’s salary at the previous church. By far, more churches use the pastor’s previous salary as benchmark to establish the new salary. For example, if a pastor has an income of $50,000 at his current church, his prospective church may offer him $55,000, or a 10% increase.
  2. The previous pastor’s salary. The second most common benchmark to determine a pastor’s salary is the previous pastor’s salary. Allow me to make an editorial comment here. If you are a pastor who has been declining raises for a few years, you could be hurting your church and the next pastor. There could very well be a big gap between your current salary and the compensation needed for the next pastor.
  3. Experience. Simply stated, most pastors’ salaries increase with increasing years of ministry experience.
  4. Education. I have observed this factor decrease in importance over the past 15 years. I don’t see nearly as many churches requiring a doctor’s degree as they did in the past. And I am seeing fewer churches require a seminary master’s degree, though that degree is still important for many churches.
  5. Demographics of church. The specific demographics to which I refer are family income levels. I know one church that used the estimated median family income of its congregation as the base to determine the pastor’s salary. They would then adjust by other factors such as experience and education.

These factors all have their strengths and their weaknesses. I have noted in previous posts some resources that could help your church to offer your pastor a fair salary.

I would love to hear from you about these five most common approaches. I would also appreciate input about other ways your church determines the pastor’s salary. Finally, it would be great to get input regarding other church staff positions. Thanks for your feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.

How are salaries determined for ministry leaders in your church?

Posted on December 6, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • David Sloan says on

    Enjoy your answers. Pastor compensation packages always seem to be a challenge to get unity on. I want my pastor and his family to be well compensated. If our church body is doing what Jesus asked us to, He will and has provided the finances.

  • Honestly, I guess such posts should be printed
    more and more because of the present situation and modern demands of the Millenials.
    I read them to get some fresh information that will correspond to my

  • Robert says on

    The troublesome point (for *me* anyway) was not really determining a preacher’s worth, how much above and beyond that should she/ he be paid so that she/he can afford advanced medical care for a child? It always made me think the next preacher was going “well, you paid so-and-so X dollars salary, plus Y dollars to medically support a child– why can’t you add X and Y together and pay me that? Tensions do arise up over that subject. I was glad to be off that committee.

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