Pastor Salary

Designing a Clergy Compensation Package

In most churches, more money is spent on pastor salary than on any other item. That makes clergy compensation the congregation's number one financial challenge. So it's no surprise that there are as many opinions about pastor compensation packages as there are churches.

I find myself in the somewhat unique position of having been on both sides of the clergy compensation issue. I was a pastor and experienced both the good and the bad of pastor salary questions. I was also a "lay" person helping to determine a pastor's compensation package. That doesn't make my thoughts perfect. But I encourage you to carefully consider the following guidelines.

If you're in a hurry, you may want to skip down to the section, "Elements of a Pastor Salary Package." There you'll find links to other pages where I discuss the various ingredients of effective clergy compensation.

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Download the entire pastor salary section of My-Pastor.com in an ebook format. You can print as many copies as you want. And it will look better than printing each of the 11 pages directly from the web site.
See this page for more information.
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Basic Concepts of Pastor Salary

Pastor salary is a congregation's responsibility and privilege in accordance with it's own abilities to free a pastor to focus on church ministry by providing financial and physical support for the pastor's immediate and long-term needs.

Oak View Law Group

This definition can be divided into several parts.

  • The pastor's salary is both the congregation's responsibility and its privilege.
  • Salary is determined in part by what the church can afford. However, I feel I need to say that the New Testament churches in Macedonia gave beyond their ability - they supported others even when it meant they might go without (2 Corinthians 8:1-3). That passage in particular teaches us that giving should be generous - even sacrificial at times, and joyful - counting it a privilege to help others. So, determine what you can give and also what you should give. There needs to be balance.
  • Paying a pastor salary frees a pastor to be more involved in ministry. This is why you give your pastor compensation. The greater his freedom, the more he is able to help you and your congregation.
  • A clergy compensation package should include provisions for both the immediate and long-term needs of your pastor.

These points, though, lead to the next question...

How Much Pastor Salary Is Enough?

I heard one church leader say, "If we paid him what he is worth, we'd give him a million dollars. But we only have this much money. That's all we can pay him."

That may be a sincere conviction, or it may be a cop-out. Either way, how much is enough?

Here's my basic guideline for pastor salary:

Don't make your pastor live
on more faith than you do.

By that I mean that you should pay your pastor about the same as what you live on. To be more specific, your clergy compensation package should be somewhere around your church's median household income.

There are always some people who will want to argue points like...

  • Our pastor doesn't have kids so he doesn't need as much.
  • Our pastor is young, we had to struggle for a while too when we were young.
  • I remember when I only earned $75 a week... and we survived.
  • We give him a parsonage. If I had free housing I could live on a fraction of what I earn.
  • If we pay him too much he won't need to trust the Lord.

These comments do two things: reveal a great deal about the person saying them and dishearten your pastor. Your pastor isn't serving your church for money. He isn't trying to get rich. So when people judge him for earning or wanting too much money he feels like he is only an employee of the church rather than a ministry partner.

Did you know that pastor's wives don't like to wear new clothes to church? Someone always says something that makes her feel like she spent too much of the church's money. Did you ever notice that when your pastor wears a new tie he almost always explains from the pulpit that it was a gift? He's uncomfortable with new things because there are always a few people who think he makes and/or spends too much money.

I'm not suggesting that congregations need to over-pay their pastors. Nor am I suggesting that financial accountability isn't important. I simply want you to know how all the "negotiations" about pastor salary make your pastors feel.

What's the basic guideline? Pay your pastor about what most of the people in your church earn, keeping in mind that he maintains doctor's hours, has the equivalent of a lawyers education, and has as many bosses as there are members of your church. So a good guideline to follow is to pay him a starting salary a little above the average household income of the people in your church.

As an alternative method of determining your pastor's salary, you might want to pay him approximately what the local high school principal earns. Generally speaking, both positions require about the same amount of education and experience.

Financial Freedom


What Do Other Churches Pay Their Pastors?

Let me caution you here about comparing your pastor salary package with that of other churches. There are books available that show you what other churches pay their pastors... but I'm not going to tell you where you can get them! In my opinion it shouldn't matter what other churches do. The question is, What should you do for your pastor in your town in your church? Comparing your pastor salary package to other churches won't accomplish much because you are a unique church and your pastor is a unique person with unique needs. Base your pastor compensation on what your pastor needs rather than what other churches are doing.

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Download the entire pastor salary section of My-Pastor.com in an ebook format. You can print as many copies as you want. And it will look better than printing each of the 11 pages directly from the web site.
See this page for more information.
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And if you're a pastor reading this, let me summarize the statistics about pastor's salaries: a pastor down the road from you is earning more than you - a lot more. There. That's what you wanted to know. Now you know it. Get back to work.

What Does the Bible Say About Pastor Compensation?

1 Corinthians 9:14 - "The Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn a living from the gospel."

Simply put, this means that pastors who work in the ministry of the gospel should be free from having to earn a living by other means. See also, 1 Timothy 5:17.

Elements of a Pastor Salary Package

I discussed above some general concepts concerning pastor salary. However, a pastor's compensation package should be divided into various categories or elements. This helps him at tax time, it helps the church maintain financial accountability, and it ensures that people understand that much of the money given your pastor is used for purposes other than his personal bills and day to day expenses.

In addition to a base salary I suggest you include the following elements in your clergy compensation package. Click each title for more information.

Insurance and Pastor Salary
Professional expenses

Taxes

Housing allowance

Vacation

Retirement

Continuing Education

Church Parsonage - Should a pastor own his own home?

Pastor's Retreat

Sabbatical

Pastor Salary Conclusion

Your pastor doesn't expect to get rich off the clergy compensation package you offer him. He knows you don't have a lot of money and deeply appreciates the sacrifices you make to support his family.

Let me encourage you, though, to be as generous as you can. An adequate pastor salary will set him free to minister without distraction.

_________________________
Download the entire clergy compensation section of My-Pastor.com in an ebook format. You can print as many copies as you want. And it will look better than printing each of the 11 pages directly from the web site.
See this page for more information.
_________________________

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