Is Your Church Paying Fair Salaries?

Attracting and keeping quality employees while practicing good stewardship.

One of the most common questions we get when helping churches manage their employee search relates to compensation. While I wish there was a one-size-fits-all answer for this question, the truth is that every church is unique and needs to answer this question for itself.

When it comes to salaries, I believe a church compensation structure should strive for three things:

  • Model generosity. Generous churches are led by generous pastors. Pastors set the tone for the church’s culture of generosity, which means having the ability to generously give. A salary that does not enable someone to tithe, support missionaries, give to those in need, or make other one-time gifts will negatively impact your church’s culture of generosity.
  • Minimize stress. Ministry can be both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly stressful. Constantly worrying about making the rent payment or deciding between buying groceries or a coat for a daughter adds a level of stress that ultimately hurts a minister’s ability to truly serve a church.
  • Enable connections. Every neighborhood has a specific culture. Effective ministry takes place when that culture is fully engaged. In some neighborhoods, this means developing relationships through children’s sporting events, others revolve around local community associations, and for some it is a country club. Whatever the cultural distinctives, there needs to be a compensation strategy that enables staff to fully connect with their neighborhoods.

With these three guidelines in mind, here are a few tools I have used to develop a compensation strategy:

  • Data USA. This site helps to determine the cost of living in your area, as well as offering tons of other information. Using this free platform as a guide will help you get a general sense of what it costs to live in your community.
  • ChurchSalary. This helpful tool will allow you to see what other churches of comparable size and budget are paying for a position. ChurchSalary helps to develop a sense of what the “market rate” is for a position.
  • Local school board pay scales. In most jurisdictions, school teachers’ and administrators’ pay scales can be a useful guide in developing your church’s compensation structure. Ministry staff, such as youth pastors and children’s pastors are comparable to a teacher with similar education and years in service. Senior pastors are comparable to a high school principal, and executive pastors are comparable to a high school assistant principal. This is not a hard and fast rule, but can be a helpful guideline.

I use these three tools, along with a church’s budget, to develop a salary range that will be attractive to candidates, while at the same time stewarding the church’s resources well. It is a delicate dance, but doing this will serve both your church and your team well.

Matt Steen is the cofounder of Chemistry Staffing. This article is adapted from “What Should We Pay?” on Used with permission. Sign up to receive Chemistry Staffing’s upcoming Compensation Planning Playbook —a guide to help churches figure out the true cost of bringing a staff member on their team.

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