7 Concerning Findings about Benefits for Pastors and Other Church Staff
7 Concerning Findings about Benefits for Pastors and Other Church Staff

I recently spoke with a pastor who was tearfully concerned about his health insurance. He had just received notice of a large premium increase that he could not afford. With a diabetic child, he did not know what to do.

The only good news in this story is that he had health insurance.

Many pastors do not.

Even more church staff do not.

Once again, I turned to the data trove, 2016-2017 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, by Richard R. Hammar. The material includes data from 8,250 ministry positions in 2,500 churches.

In my previous post, I looked primarily at compensation issues. In this post, I examine benefits of church staff.

I am concerned about some of the findings.

  1. Fewer than half of solo pastors receive any health insurance benefits. A solo pastor is full-time without other pastors on staff. The news is better among lead or senior pastors, but it still is disconcerting. Fewer than two-thirds of lead pastors receive health insurance benefits.
  2. Almost three-fourths of full-time worship/music leaders receive health insurance benefits. The worship leader is the most likely ministry staff to receive these benefits, but there are still over one-fourth of them who do not.
  3. Many full-time church staff receive no retirement benefits. Those who do receive these benefits range from solo pastors (44%) to lead or senior pastors (64%). I am particularly concerned about the pastors of small churches who labor faithfully for 30 or 40 years and have no retirement plans made.
  4. Almost all full-time staff get paid vacations. This information was one piece of good news in an overall concerning report.
  5. Only six in ten full-time pastors and staff get any type of automobile reimbursement. Only five in ten children’s ministers do so. This item is actually a reimbursable expense rather than a benefit. Those who do not get automobile reimbursements must pay the expenses out of pocket, so it becomes a de facto pay cut.
  6. Very few full-time ministry staff receive either life insurance or disability insurance. At the very least, ministers should be made aware of the potential need of such insurances, even if they have to purchase small policies themselves.
  7. The parsonage as a benefit has all but disappeared. Only about one in eight pastors have this benefit. The numbers will likely continue to get smaller.

It is a tragedy that many church members have misperceptions about pay and compensation of ministry staff. Many of our ministers are underpaid by community standards. Even more don’t have benefits common in the secular world.

Our pastors and church staff do an incredible job caring for us, the church members. Let’s be sure we are taking care of them as well.

This post was adapted from an article that first appeared at ThomRainer.com on February 15, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer. Used with permission.

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."

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