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Managing Your Church Blog, March, 2017
Largest US Protestant Denomination Reports Rise in Pastor Salary, Decline in Benefits
What a study from the Southern Baptist Convention shows about changes in pastors' pay.
Largest US Protestant Denomination Reports Rise in Pastor Salary, Decline in Benefits

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) biannual “SBC Church Compensation Study” revealed that compensation for full-time senior pastors within their denomination increased by 3.4 percent over the past two years, placing it well above growth rate for the consumer price index (1.1%). Higher education was correlated with higher pay, as head ministers with a bachelor’s degree received on average $4,040 more than non-college educated ministers who were otherwise equally qualified.

The study also revealed that although salary has increased significantly, the entire pay package (housing, salary, retirement, insurance, and so on) has increased only by 0.9 percent, putting it behind the rate of inflation (1.1%).

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, pointed out that in order for wages to be fair, they must keep up with inflation and cost of living. “While inflation has been lower this last year, it is still true that the dollars churches paid last year don’t buy as much,” McConnell said. “Without a raise, you are actually paying less.”

In addition, the number of churches providing health insurance to their ministers has shrunk from 60 percent in 2014 to 50 percent, a drastic decrease in the span of a few years. The number of churches providing vision, dental, life/accident, and/or disability insurance also declined by a few percentage points from the last survey.

Church size correlates with the likelihood that a church provides health insurance to ministers, according to the survey. The survey noted that three out of four churches with an average attendance of 250 or more provided health insurance to their ministers, while only three out of ten churches (31%) with an average attendance of 50 or fewer did the same.

As for family medical insurance, the survey found that only one in four churches provide health care for both the head pastor and his family, fewer than one in six (15%) pay for the pastor and his spouse only, and one in ten provide for the pastor only.

Overall, the study shows that SBC compensation has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Although compensation for full-time church staff has significantly exceeded inflation in cost of living over the past couple of years, the pay package as a whole, which includes benefits, has failed to keep up with inflation. Overall benefits—especially health care—have declined, and, in some cases, that decline has been significant.

For those who wish to learn more about compensation in other denominations, Church Law & Tax is currently conducting the National Church Compensation Survey: a survey of churches from all denominations in the US that analyzes how they compensate their employees, with the goal of helping churches set fair compensation. The survey is open through April 2017, and the results will be released later this year.

Take the National Church Compensation Survey by clicking here.

If you need a resource on church compensation, see the 2016–2017 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.

Seth Humeniuk is the editorial intern for Church Law & Tax.