The recession officially ended two years ago, but America's slow recovery is evident everywhere—including the pay that pastors and paid ministry staff members receive to lead churches nationwide.
The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, Christianity Today's bi-annual survey of salaries and benefits of 4,600 participating churches, reveals an average 1.7 percent increase in pay for all 8,000 positions reported on since the last survey in 2010. Two years ago, though, the compensation survey showed pay and benefits declined an average of 1.4 percent, so this year's uptick in pay, albeit small, represents a bigger overall improvement for church workers.
To illustrate, senior pastors report salary and benefits at an average $82,938 this year, up 2.7 percent from the $80,745 average reported in the 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff (see Chart 1). 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.
About 32 percent of churches provide additional salary to their senior or solo pastor to assist with their Social Security payments. Of these churches, 78 percent pay half of the Social Security tax, while 22 percent pay all of it.
About two-thirds of the churches surveyed reimburse roughly 79 percent of the senior or solo pastor's professional expenses per year, and two-thirds (64 percent) help their senior or solo pastor with auto expenses.