Most pastors do not take a vow of poverty when called into the ministry. They deserve a fair wage for their work like everyone else. Moreover, almost every pastor is motivated by factors other than money. I don’t hear many stories from pastors beginning with, “I decided to go into ministry because of the money.”
Likely, your church is not paying your pastor enough. What gives?
First, I want to offer three points of clarification.
- My church is generous, and I’m content with my pay. West Bradenton is good to my family. I have no complaints. This article is not about me.
- The stories of extreme wealth among pastors are rare. Do not let a few excessive cases taint your view of all pastors.
- Most people use their own salaries as a point of comparison. If a pastor makes more than they do, it’s too much. If a pastor makes less than they do, it’s too little.
Second, actual data is helpful rather than speculation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a full-time pastor is $55,550. This figure is right in the middle of the national median annual salary for all men ($59,488) and all women ($49,036) in the United States.
I believe this level of pay is too low for most pastors. Here is why.
- Benefits packages are often much less for pastors when compared with other industries.
- The average pastor is almost 60 years old. These wages are low for those who are supposed to be in their peak income-earning years. For pastors with young families, the pay is even lower.
- The demands on the family are entirely different than most other jobs. Everyone in a pastor’s family feels a level of stress that is unique to the position.
- The education requirements for a pastor are much higher than jobs in other industries. Many churches want their pastor to have a master’s degree, if not a doctorate.
- You are always on call. Every hour. Every day.
- The work hours are longer. Over half of pastors work more than fifty hours a week.
- Transitioning to another job or ministry position is more complex and personal for pastors and their families.
- The expectations of a pastor are much greater. Everyone in the church wants the pastor to be an expert in their area of interest: theology, finance, counseling, leadership, facilities, pedagogy, and technology, among many others.
What can your church do to solve the problem?
- Stay on top of inflation! Cost of living increases should occur every year and mirror the inflation rate. The inflation problem is hitting everyone, but the limitations of church budgets mean pastors and church staff are hit especially hard. They don’t often get 10% and 15% increases.
- Ask your pastor if there are additional financial needs. Don’t put the burden on your pastor to take the initiative.
- Consider adding benefits, especially healthcare and retirement. Even small items can be quite helpful, like paying for a laptop or a mileage reimbursement.
- Practice equal pay with men and women on staff. Churches are notorious for paying women less for doing the same job as their male peers.
- If you are behind with your pay scales, make an intentional effort to catch up. Frankly, there is a massive shortage of pastors, which is not likely to change any time soon. The short supply and high demand mean other churches will make solid offers to attract good pastors. Don’t make pay the reason your pastor needs to make a transition.
Third, do not forget most pastors receive part-time pay. There are approximately 400,000 churches in the United States. How many of these congregations are led by bi-vocational pastors? A precise count does not exist, but estimates range between 50% and 75%. Most bi-vocational pastors would be stunned with an offer of $55,000!
My first church paid me $50 weekly, enough to cover gas. The drive was 90 minutes one-way. I loved being bi-vocational and did not regret serving a poor, rural church. The people were as generous as they could be and loved me deeply. Even if your church can’t pay more, express your appreciation often. Your pastor does not love you because of what you pay. But your pastor will value your expressions of love.
Posted on December 13, 2023
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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