What’s the Best Method for Determining a Pastor’s Salary?

How much should a pastor be paid?  It’s a question that many churches and pastors struggle to answer.

When I became a pastor in 1998, working in a large church with 10 pastors, my church based a new pastor’s starting salary at the same level as the starting salary of public school teachers.

At the time, I thought it was a bit low, and I complained that this wasn’t fair, because teachers only had to work 9 months and got summers off.

I got no sympathy, however, from friends who asked me, “What are you complaining about, since pastors only have to work one day a week?”

Ha! If only that were true! ;)  Anyway, all kidding aside…

A few of us did question whether a teacher’s salary is the best benchmark for salaries for pastors at our church.  

Our church business administrator (who handled all finance and HR responsibilities), decided to contact other churches of similar size in our community to ask them how they determined their pastors’ salaries.

Apparently they had some really great discussions, because these local church finance leaders decided to meet quarterly to discuss common issues, share best practices, etc.

In addition, they decided to conduct an annual pastor compensation survey to identify the range of salaries for senior pastors, youth pastors, worship pastors, executive pastors, care pastors, missions pastors, children’s pastors and other ministry staff positions.

Now, for the first time, our church and other churches of similar size in our community had a benchmark for pastor salaries.  Our church used this information to create a salary range for the various pastor positions.

The results from the first survey showed that some of our pastors were paid several thousand dollars less per year than pastors in similar positions with other churches.  We were able to make adjustments over the next year to get our pastors within the “ballpark” range.

No matter what size church or community you serve in, I’d recommend connecting with other pastors and churches of similar size to share information on pastor salaries.  

The important thing to remember is to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples:  work with churches of similar size, and compare positions with similar roles and levels of responsibility.

Have you or your church conducted a salary survey with other area churches?  If so please share your experience.