How Much Are Pastors Earning These Days?

How much are the pastors of Protestant churches nationwide earning these days?

The chart below shows the national averages for compensation and benefits earned by full-time senior pastors, based on Christianity Today's biannual survey of 4,600 churches nationwide. The survey provided valuable, detailed data on 13 church staff positions (including compensation levels based on personnel characteristics like years employed, denomination, region, gender, and education) for the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.

Among the findings of the survey: Senior pastors reported salaries and benefits that, on average, were 2.7 percent higher than those reported for the preceding 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff:

Two important things to note:

  1. Actual take-home pay for pastors may be much different, perhaps far less, because 84 percent of senior pastors say they receive a housing allowance that accounts for $20,000 to $38,000 in added compensation.
  2. As the text with the graphic indicates, church leaders should take multiple factors into account before setting pay levels, and shouldn't use national averages as their only sources of information. The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook provides calculation worksheets for each of the 13 positions; these are designed to walk church leaders through their church's setting and the staff member's unique characteristics to highlight relevant data that will more accurately identify what pay ranges should be considered.

How do these numbers compare to your church's situation? Were raises possible in 2011? Are raises on the horizon in 2012?

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 1–5 of 5 comments

Jonathan Alexander

April 30, 2012  11:54am

As a senior pastor of a larger church, I highly recommend two additional resources: (1) conduct a salary/compensation study with 5-10 churches of like size in your immediate geographic area. it's insightful to see how other churches of like size in your area are compensating their staff, and (2) download leadership network's "2010 Large Church Salary and Benefits Report" (they're working on 2011 right now). it's focused on comparables of larger churches. With the Compensation Handbook for churches and these two other resources, we've clarified the compensation ranges and packages for our staff.

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January 13, 2012  6:08pm

Marvin–Please see above regarding the change from 2006 to 2007 for senior pastors. Do you have more specifics regarding your question for music pastors (i.e. would the methodology changes from 2006 to 2007 explain the differences you questioned, or are you looking at different time periods)? Best, Matt

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January 13, 2012  6:06pm

George, Thanks for posing your question about the difference in data for senior pastors from 2006 to 2007. Here is the reason: We took over the Compensation Handbook, and its related survey, in 2006. The following year, in an effort to provide the most meaningful compensation information, we made some modifications to the reporting. Although we recognize that any changes made to data analysis will sometimes make it difficult to compare previous data, we felt these changes were important for this resource long-term. One of the changes was to separate the Senior Pastor and Solo Pastor positions, given that they are generally compensated differently. Another of these changes was to report quartiles instead of standard deviation. We feel that quartiles are easier for users to understand than standard deviation. I hope this better explains what happened from 2006 to 2007.

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Marvin Beach

January 10, 2012  2:13pm

I, too, am interested in the significant change in salaries, not only in the senior pastor, but in the full-time music also. A small sample could skew with the addition or drop of a large salary, but I wouldn't think your sample size to be small enough for that to happen. Please offer an insight if you can.

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George Minor

January 09, 2012  11:24am

I bought your publication "2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff" to better plan for our pastor's compensation change for 2012. During our church board's discussion with the pastor about compensation, the pastor mentioned that there was a sharp drop in compensation for Senior and Solo Pastors from 2006 to 2007. He cited this discrepancy as a basis for discounting the data/analyses in the handbook. Can you please explain why the compensation drop as shown on pages 33, 47, 85, etc. of the handbook? Thanks.

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