the pastor’s salary

Written by Mark Lafler

B.A., Global University; M.C.S., Regent College I am currently serving as a youth minister at our church in Sarasota, FL. I am married to Tera (15 Years +) and we have 3 beautiful daughters.

April 15, 2011

money, payday, cash, paycheck, wallet

Spurred on by a comment on my last column (the pastor and the secular job) concerning the salaries of pastors, I am curious what the smart and worthy readers of BibleDude.net think about the contemporary state of the income of full-time pastors.

It seems to me that coming up with a “proper” salary for pastors is a difficult task.

At one church that I’ve ministered at they use a book that’s published annually.  This book breaks down salary averages according to North American regions, the pastor’s official title (i.e. lead pastor, executive pastor, youth pastor, etc), church size, experience and education of the minister, and his or her length of time at their position.

Is this business approach the right model?

In my undergraduate program, my teacher, the late Andrew Freeborn, suggested that the pastor’s salary should be in the medium income range of the congregation.  In this way, the pastor will be able to relate with the financially wealthy and the financially challended.  I assume this would indicate that someone who pastors a church in a wealthy area (i.e. Silicon Valley) will make a lot of money, while the pastor in a poor community will struggle with the rest of the parish.

Is this approach best?

Some might suggest that the pastor’s needs should be covered.  However, the word “need” is so subjective these days.  Does a pastor “need” paid-television-programming, a mobile phone, a company car, an allotment for his or her wardrobe, etc.? – Perhaps so or perhaps not.

So I ask for help.

I ask out of curiosity.

How should a pastor’s salary be determined?

Should the size of the church determine the salary of a pastor?

How have you determined the pastor’s salary at your church?

If you led the committee at your church, then how would you determine the salary of your pastor?

17 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This is a tough question. As a college grad that is aspiring to pastor a church someday, I believe that the pastor should receive only enough to meet his family’s financial living needs.

    However, that of course begs us to answer the question about what a pastor actually needs. If the pastor says he needs a Lamborghini, a 10000 sq ft. house, and a vacation home, maybe you need to reconsider who is pastoring your church. But with that being said, I don’t think it’s bad for a pastor to have good things, but I think it is wrong for these good things to be more important in his heart than the needs of the church.

    I don’t think there is any formula for determining what a pastor’s salary should be. It all comes down to his heart, his needs, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we’re ever unsure, just ask God (and yes, I know that sounds like a typical Sunday school answer, but I mean that with the upmost sincerity and belief that God will direct our steps and decisions).

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for your comments. Your right, it is always right to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit for each given circumstance.

      Thank you.

      Reply
  2. Ryan Tate

    I serve on our elder board (small sized church) and have faced these decisions. Like @apbrewer said, there isn’t a formula. The salary might be tied to the giving of the body. If a community doesn’t provide enough to support the pastor full-time, he may need to find additional part time or full time work. Many churches try to protect thier pastor from that so he can focus fully on shepherding and teaching. Other churches encourage additional jobs. It all depends on the pastor himself and the specific body. We did look at average salaray ranges and cost of living numbers in our area. Our pastor also worked hard to be debt free, which eliminated several burdens for him personally, and indirectly, the church body.

    I am sure you could find standard practices and ranges somewhere, but I think it all depends on the circumstances of each individual body and how God directs them with the finances.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks Ryan! Circumstances for the pastor and the church are unique in each situation. Therefore, one has to really consider each situation differently.

      Thanks for the comments!

      Reply
    • Andrew Brewer

      I couldn’t agree more, Ryan. I met a pastor from Russia a few months ago that worked three part-time jobs while still pastoring a small church in his little town. It really made me appreciate how blessed we are here in the U.S. with our vast resources. However, this also reminded me that we are all part of the one body of Christ, and our resources need to be used for both the local and the international church for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in need.

      Anyways, I just wanted to share this story and praise God for how He doesn’t ever leave us lacking or wanting in anything, even in one of the poorest areas of Russia.

      Reply
      • Mark Lafler

        Thanks for the global perspective! It is so true that we need to keep in mind that our membership in the body of Christ streches across international boundaries.

        Thanks so much for the comments!

        Reply
  3. Duane Scott

    The pastors at my church don’t get paid.

    But it’s just a small country church. 😉

    And he’s a farmer on the side.

    -DS

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks! Because I am living in a city, a pastor who is a part-time farmer sounds really cool!

      Reply
    • @bibledude

      just curious… does a pastor who is also a farmer use a lot of agricultural references? i’d bet that there’s a greater understanding of many of the parables…

      Reply
  4. @bibledude

    this is an interesting question about pastor compensation… but it also makes me think about pastor responsibilities in the church… i hate to see the amount of work that is put on some pastors… like having them mow the lawn, clean the sanctuary, etc.

    but to your point… compensation is a tricky thing. i’ve served on the board for my church for several years, and don’t like the approach of “this is what the book says”. i think that there is a fine balance between what the church can afford, and what the pastor needs. i also think that whatever the church works out regarding immediate salary, the church should also think long-term into retirement for the pastor as well.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the comments.

      I agree the church (if able) should consider retirement plans, life insurance, disability coverage, and other benefits including vacation, continuing education, and holiday pay. These will help the pastor (and his or her family) through years of service.

      As far as what the church can afford, what if they can afford to pay the pastor $250,000.00 per year? What if it is a mega-church and they clearly have the funds to do so? Is that right, not right, or subjective to the situation?

      Reply
  5. anordinarydad

    I believe the Bible teaches that the local assembly of believers should care for their pastor so they can focus on prayer and teaching the bible, that pastor’s are worthy of “double honor” and should not be ‘kept poor’ just to teach them a lesson. We can show God’s love to the world by how we love and care for our pastor’s. Does this mean we arbitrarily set a number based on the average income of the congregation? I think a congregation should consider needs over ‘title/position’ just because someone has been a pastor for twenty five years and is the Senior pastor does not mean they deserve twice the salary of a new Youth Pastor who has to save for a down payment on a house, retirement, college for kids etc… aside from that, cable, cell phones, internet, lattes three times a day, how a pastor spends their disposable income shouldn’t be too much of a problem, unless you don’t trust your pastor to be as careful with the resources that God has given them as people in the congregation are. Finally people should know that pastors have special tax situations as well, housing costs are non-taxable but that gets tricky because they have to declare the amount they will use on housing at the beginning of the year, and anything designated as housing expenses that doesn’t get spent is lost, and unless a pastor opts out of Social Security for moral reasons (I.e. belief that the government should not support them in retirement) they will have 15% of their salary deducted instead of what people in the congregation typically pay (7.5%)

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the comments. I agree that the “local assembly” should care for the parish/local pastor per the New Testament. I also like your thinking about the difference of pay regarding a 25 year senior pastor and the new youth pastor. MInistry is ministry. Although there may be business ideas that are clearly helpful in a local church, the church should never become a mirror image of business models.

      Thanks again for contributing!

      Reply
  6. Andy Carlson

    I think the salary is not a fixed number or percentage. I think the salary is relative to many considerations and factors…not simply a number from a book….To be a little more transparent, in my personal lay ministry work in several areas of church and para-church circumstances, I am of the opinion that, if our churches (of any type) are to survive, it will be that we re engage our youth in activity, conversation and participation . If we fail to engage the youth of this coming generation…the graying of the congregation will only accelerate exponentially….and the church will wither. I therefore feel the most important position for growth in our church “organization” is the youth pastor, youth team, and church school team. They are the potential life blood of the present church. A church which is now mostly on life support……They are the leadership into the new generation of children and young adult of all ages who are with little to zero church experience, let alone affiliation. I think across the broad spectrum of our church community the youth pastor / Sunday school teacher (denominational, non denominational and para church) is the most underpaid, under served and with the greatest need for personal ministerial resources and support (both for the ministry and for their individual/family needs). I have witness far to many youth workers falter and leave the ministry simply because they lack financial and broad based community support. It seems we (as the church body generally) consider the youth ministry secondary to the mission of the church. I say that to support the need for adequate pastoral salary review and considerations: That church is not only the Senior Pastor…but equal (or even greater) emphasis needs to be directed to all of our youth programs, in church, outreach to the community with renewed dedication to service on our campuses of higher education.

    Reply
  7. Zemaj73

    I have a question that I really need a answer to. I attend a small church with less than 20 adults. Of that number five or less are still in the work force while the others are retired.  What is considered fair for our pastor’s salary?

    Reply
  8. Jonathan Smythe

    I don’t believe that a Pastor should be poor, but I think that his salary should be representative of his concregation.  Stu Hodges started Water’s Edge Church in Yorktown, VA in 2003 – but I think that he lost the path somewhere, and that he thinks because he started the church, that he is entitled.  The median income in Yorktown, VA is ~$43,000, and the median homeprice is ~$90,000.  So how much money does one have to make to afford a $550,000+ house (city appraised at $571,300, 3600 square feet, 3 car attached garage, 2 car detached with a loft/workspace, swimming pool, on 1.7 acres).  That’s not very representative of the area or his congregation’s income – it’s thievery.  He shouldn’t have to live worse than the congregation, but he shouldn’t live that much above them. 

    He left Liberty Baptist to start Water’s Edge, and they supported him financially.  But now that his Associate Pastor is leaving to start his own church, he is getting no financial support (after 7 years with Stu) from Water’s Edge.  I would be hard pressed to believe that there isn’t bad blood, and probably stemming from Stu Hodges extravagent living.  Last year they gave $80,000 to local charities/etc (out of $369,100 (Offering – Expenses)), but the church doesn’t ever get involved in the community.  No food drives, no clothing donations, no soup kitchens – but we did give 18 lucky foster kids gifts for Christmas… $300,000 remaining and we only donated to 18 children – Water’s Edge Church is a sham.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Jonathan, I just listed Waters edge church and that’s actually the reason I looked into preachers salary’s. I’ve been twice to Stu’s service, the first one was all about giving and this time it was about how good Christian’s give big. He seemed very egotistical. I only went back because my kids love the children’s program, I was ready to walk out because he was making up facts that have no biblical backing. He may have been good once but Waters edge is a sham and I had to explain to my kids that we won’t be going back because they don’t teach the Bible.

      Reply

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the pastor’s salary

by Mark Lafler time to read: 2 min
17