A Breakdown of Salaries and Benefits for Senior Pastors

Editor's Note: The 2016-2017 Compensation Handbook for Church Staffis now available. This resource details pay and benefits data for 15 church positions. Each position is analyzed based on a variety of criteria, including education, experience, church size, and geography. The resource also includes step-by-step worksheets to help churches tailor compensation based on their unique circumstances.

The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, Christianity Today's bi-annual survey of compensation levels based on 4,600 participating churches, shows senior pastors' salary and benefits at an average $82,938 this year. This represents a 2.7 percent increase from the $80,745 average reported in 2010.

Senior pastors rank at the top in total compensation plus benefits for church staff. (See the "Top 7 Paid Full-Time Positions in Church.")

In general, as church income and worship attendance increase, compensation and benefits also increase.

While a salary in the $80,000 range looks good on paper, actual take-home pay for pastors may be much different, perhaps far less. The average base salary of a full-time senior pastor ranges from $33,000 to $70,000. Eighty-four percent of senior pastors say they also receive a housing allowance, which accounts for $20,000 to $38,000 in added compensation.

The graphic below highlights the breakdown of salary and benefits senior pastors receive.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–10 of 12 comments

Robert John Tarasiak

June 23, 2014  10:27am

As a Pastor with a Masters degree, my TOTAL package of pay is only $37,200 per year. I have been in ministry for over 12 years. You tell me if this is sufficient?

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June 01, 2014  5:03pm

That's just wrong, a pastor deserves a decent salary so that he can focus on the word of god and not have to constantly stress and worry if he will be able to pay the bills. $50k is pathetic. I'm not a pastor but my salary is just over $50k and let me tell you it feels like minimum wage. You only have enough to live on, thats it. no extra money to save for requirement especially if you have kids to feed.

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Jacob Poetzl

May 28, 2014  12:17pm

I'd love to make what my congregation makes on average. Considering that my wife works about 30 hours a week, and I work an average of 60 hours a week...Fact is only one of us gets paid...and paid for a 40 hour week...not 90. It's very non-stop work...like owning a restaurant or a business. Consider also that most pastors like me have a significant amount of student debt that takes a good chunk of my month's pay. I'd pick up a second job, but I wouldn't have time for the church or my family. Most of the dual income people in my church make about 60-90k a year. I make about 40 (that's the equivalent of two minimum wage jobs for my wife and I). Richard, how bout you try to pay student debt, feed four kids, let them do sports, go to church camp...host small groups, feed people dinners...etc on 50k? I can't even own my own home or car. Richard, why don't you pick up your own cross rather than placing them on other people with your ignorant petition.

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Eugene Bell

May 16, 2014  6:06pm

I don't really get it, but I catch myself thinking like that myself, that a minister should have a cap on how much they make, yet, if it is a dentist or a psychologist, or a plumber or whatever, well, after all this is America and America is a capitalist country. Makes no sense.

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April 08, 2014  12:06pm

Being a pastor I know first hand people don't even know the half of what it entails. WE ARE NEVER OFF. Your phone is constantly ringing. Hospital and nursing home visits. Funerals, weddings, and dedications to do. Meetings after meetings to attend and this has nothing to do with your actual family. Basketball football soccer track cheerleading, baseball dance and recitals. Have you ever had to explain to a 6 yr old I had to leave your game because Johnny's dad got sick. Oh and your wife that needs time. Everyone wants to talk to the pastor everyone wants the pastor to do everything and will be mad if an asst pastor, minister, elder or deacon shows up in place of the pastor. Everyone wants direct access to you at all times 24/7. And not to mention the women that throw themselves at you constantly that you are still required to love. You have to be a mentor, counselor, friend, and father/mother. Weekends are filled ...every weekend of the year is filled. There is always something to do or someone that's needs you. I am not complaining, I love what I do and I don't make anywhere close to 50K...but a cap at 50k is just crazy. I know people that sit at a desk all day and work 40hrs and not a second more off on weekends and take 2 vacations a year, that make more than 50K. I know pastor's salaries can get pretty ridiculous but 50k.

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April 06, 2014  1:20pm

I know God wants us all to prosper, but I believe if a Pastor is making mega bucks from his church and his people are hurting and struggling then something is wrong with that picture... I believe we need to take up our cross and deny ourself daily and follow God. I am not sure what a pastors salary is suppose to be, but I believe it depends on the size of the church and if he or she is doing it for the money and not for God's calling then it is not right anyway....

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March 10, 2014  6:06pm

What ever happened to taking up our cross,denying ourselves and following Jesus? Will God see Jesus when he looks at you? Or will He see a pastor that is storing up his riches here on earth? The ultimate pastor charged nothing. He came to serve! Freely!

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February 28, 2014  6:11pm

a pastor should make the average pay of his church members, this way he can live a life similar to theirs and be able to relate to them. this also avoids super rich pastors and super poor ones

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February 09, 2014  6:13pm

Richard, please tell me you do not believe that. Many pastors are stealing money? A very few minority is stealing money and yes that is an atrocious sin, but do not let your fear of a small few handicap the majority. Many pastors have a lot of educational dept and thus need more money to pay off their school loans. It makes no sense to pay someone who works 60 hours (or more) a week $50,000 when they have Masters and Doctors degrees. If you have a conviction of that amount of salary if you become a pastor, don't take that much home. If your that serious go to a church that pays under that. But going to the government to stop paying the ministers of God? ..... I'll pray for you.

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December 21, 2013  5:49pm

That is the lamest thing I have ever heard. It is a slap in the face to the hard-working leader facing endless needs with limited resources. A person who needs vision, communication skills, someone who does funerals and deals with the darkest parts of life on a regular basis. Someone who deals with complaints. Someone who does work behind the scenes that no one will know about. Someone who puts in more than 40 hours a week, and is often criticized instead of thanked for the work they do. Are you kidding me? A cap at 50,000? Why don't you try it out sometime. If you'll excuse me, I have to go plagiarize a sermon and golf with my buddies now.

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