Church Staff Salaries: Better Private or Public?
Church Staff Salaries: Better Private or Public?
Balancing transparency and accountability with privacy is key—but no easy task.

Church salaries comprise a growing percentage of church budget allocations. Large churches spent 52 percent of their total budgets on staff salaries in 2018, compared to 49 percent in 2016, according to data from the biennial Large Church Salary Survey conducted by Leadership Network.

As Church Law & Tax has previously reported, churches have no legal obligation to disclose salaries to the public or to church members. Even where denominations ask for pastor salary data in annual reports, they often do not require the salaries to be itemized by person, said Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

As a result, it is often up to the church leaders at individual churches to decide how transparent they will be about salaries. Where churches report salaries to their congregations, they most often take the form of a lump sum that includes all salaries and fringe benefits and are not itemized by individual, Busby said.

“ECFA’s standards do not address how churches should handle the confidentiality or transparency of the compensation of church leaders,” he said in an email. “We leave this issue to the wisdom and discretion of church leaders. Neither do we promulgate any best practices on this topic.”

Art Rainer, vice president for institutional advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of The Minister’s Salary, pointed out in his book that unless staff are trying to deceive their congregations disclosing or protecting salary information is not a matter of morality, but it does have a practical impact on pastors and others.

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Posted:
June 10, 2019
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