Pastoral Salaries - Or The Lack Thereof

Pastoral Salaries - Or The Lack Thereof

I am going to walk a 'fine line' in writing about this issue (both from a private policy issue, and the fact that people never like to talk about money) but none the less, this is an issue I feel we NEED to discuss!

There has been a lot of internet chatter1 recently about the lowering of pastoral salaries over the last 10 years - or more correctly, the failure to increase salaries as expected and done in every other line of work.

From The Churches Point Of View:

What I have done is taken the last 106 Open Positions listed at the 'Assemblies of God Jobs Online' website and averaged them out in order to discover the average salary that pastors are making on a monthly/yearly basis.

Based upon the last 106 posted Open Positions, on a monthly basis an average North American Assemblies of God minister is going to make: $2184.08 - which works out to $26,208.96 per year.

Now, before you go and say "wow, most be a lot of small churches posting jobs!", I can share with you that one very predominate church we have had join and list an open position offered a year salary of $54,000 for a senior pastorate position. In the seven-plus years since I founded the website that is the highest salary offered. Does this mean many pastors out there are not starting at a higher salary then this? No, of course not. We realize that our membership is made up of about 1/4th 2 of the total Assemblies of God ministers and churches in North America - so there are bound to be a lot of churches out there who are offering starting pastoral salaries of much more then $54,000. Those churches, of course, are not going to use our services as they use only the "Hire Based On Head Quarter Referral" method of employment.

Here is a chart I put together showing the break-down3 of each of the main ministry positions listed at Assemblies of God Jobs Online, and their monthly/yearly salary - again, based on specific ministries.

Senior Pastorate: $2,956 ($35,472) Worship Ministry: $2,862 ($34,344) Associate Ministry: $2,494 ($29,928) Youth Ministry: $2,276 ($27,312)

From The Pastors Point Of View:

What I have done is taken the last 167 Resumes listed at the 'Assemblies of God Jobs Online' website and averaged them out in order to discover the average salary that pastors are wanting on a monthly/yearly basis.

Based upon the last 167 posted Resumes, on a monthly basis the average North American Assemblies of God minister is wanting to make: $2,804.86 - which works out to $33,658.32 per year.

This number was gathered from across the entire available resume categories that we offer resumes to be posted within. As such you have within this number Senior Pastorates, Associates Pastorates, Worship Ministers, Youth Ministers, Ethnic & Intercultural Pastorates, Christian Education staff, Childrens Pastorates, and so on. Obviously some of these positions are going to receive a higher salary rate then others, so here is the individual break-down of the same four ministry positions I used in the above chart.

Senior Pastorate: $3,198.21 ($38,378.52) Worship Ministry: $3,275 ($39,300) Associate Ministry: $2,607.82 ($31,293.84) Youth Ministry: $2,582.37 ($30,988.44)

I have my suspicion as to why worship pastors are asking for more money then senior pastors... but that's a comment I'm going to leave to my self ;)

Who Exactly Decides Offered Salary Rates:

One of the big questions I've always had is exactly who is in charge of setting the salary of pastoral staff - because obviously, these people have no real understanding of what it takes to survive these days!

Here is something I found posted on an Assemblies of God church website in New Jersey:

The Board of Deacons shall determine all salaries in the light of God's Word (I Tim.5:17-18; Luke 10:7). The Pastor, ministerial staff, church staff, and any other employees of the assembly shall be remunerated in the amount and manner determined by the Board of Deacons.

All right: So, dear Board of Deacons.... did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, it costs a LOT more then $35,000 to survive in New Jersey? Oh, I'm not talking about "poverty level" here guys... I'm not even talking about "living comfortable". What I want to know is exactly when did you start getting the impression that men and women of God are only worth "poverty" or "comfortable"? Correct me if I am wrong, but does not the Bible say that we are to take care of our Spiritual Authority? Does the Bible not clearly present that a church that takes care of it's staff is a church that will be blessed? Do you think that perhaps the reasons more churches are on the brink of shutting their doors is because they never properly took care of their pastor? Do you think it's right that pastors have to work two (or more) jobs just to pay their own bills? When was the last time you went without receiving a paycheck? Hmm, maybe it's time you go ask your pastor when the last time he and his family went without a paycheck. I'm willing to bet that he's gone without a paycheck a LOT more then you and your family has. Does this honor God?

I found another church (this time I'm not going to say which one.... I do think this one needs protection) which had this to say:

The church will offer consistency in wages for personnel with equivalent responsibilities, while still recognizing that salary differences may result from individual variations in experience, skill, and length of service.

To which I simply have to ask:

What exactly do you consider "consistent"? Would that "consistent" be based on the last two pastors of your church? Pastors who probably already received far-less then cost-of-living. Would that "consistent" be the salary rate of 30 years ago?

Would it not be better to just say exactly what the church can afford and let the pastor factor that into his acceptance/denial decision. Just me... but I really do think it's better to be honest, open, and up front about things. Don't you think your pastor deserves that, and don't you think God see's it this way?

In Closing:

Overall, the purpose of this blog was to show some hard-numbers on what exactly is taking place within the "average" Assemblies of God Church in North America.

As I've already made clear (or do so below and within my footnotes) I am able to produce solid numbers because I have the largest website in the world for the Assemblies of God fellowship, outside of the [url=http:/ag.org/]official[/url] USA General Council website itself.

Because Assemblies of God Jobs Online has been online for 7+ years I really do feel I can produce solid and accurate numbers. Further, outside Springfield and the IRS, I truly do feel I have the largest database of Assemblies of God Pastors and Churches anywhere - and that alone validates.

As I also try to make clear, my numbers do not cover the "full spectrum" of Assemblies of God Churches and Pastors, however, as an independent source - such as myself and AGJobs.Org - I do not think anybody is going to get better numbers. There is simply no way for me (or anybody but Springfield and the IRS) to have access to those "mega-churches" that use the "Hire Based On Head Quarter Referral" method of employment, or other "good'ol boy network" methods that so many A/G pastors email me about complaining what I can do to stop that from happening (which is very little... if you do not like the way your District Officers do things, approach them about it, and if necessary, vote them out... but please, I'm not in position to do anything, so please, stop asking :-p ).

If you happen to be someone in any level of authority from Springfield, and care to produce valid numbers that show my numbers are incorrect, please send them my way and after an independent panel reviews them I'll made any changes where/if necessary.

(side note here: based on the times my local presbyter has gotten phone calls at 9pm at night from his presbyter, asking who I am... I'm sure you guys at Springfield can start to find a better way to contact me! Please, stop calling people to ask "Who's this guy by the name of "John Abela?" If you don't have the respect to call me directly, then "sheeesh" is about all I have to say. You can always contact AGJobs if you can't find my direct line... that contact form as been online for nearly 5 years... in the same spot... it shouldn't be to hard to find! ;) )

I would also like to note that during the same year (2004) that the Assemblies of God posted their last statistics, it was also publicly released4 that Paul and Jan Crouch made a combined $764,700.00.... just to put things in "perspective" you might say ;)

I also found a [url=http:/hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/clergywomen_abstract.html]website[/url] that stated women in ministry average a 9% salary difference then men do. I do not have a large enough numbers to produce a -solid- percentage from AGJobs.Org, but based on the numbers I do have, I could put it at a -soft- 12% difference (lower) or there-about. Sorry ladies, looks like it's still happening!

Footnotes:

*1 = This chatter has come not only from my own blogs, but others such as:
http://www.agjobs.org/blog/
[url=http:/tatumweb.com/blog/index.php/2006/01/03/examining-ag-statistics-on-growth/]Examining Assemblies of God statistics on growth, Rich Tatum[/url]
http://www.studentsreview.com/alumni.php3?SH=SAGU&ST=TX
http://www.jknirp.com/salaries.htm
and well, just search the internet for it ;)

*2 = This is some very fuzzy math folks! (mostly favoring Springfield) Based on the last official [url=http:/ag.org/top/about/Statistical_Report_2004.pdf]release[/url] (which granted was in 2004, but nothing I can do about that) there were 33,036 ministers and 12,277 churches. If you combine those to numbers together (which I did to get the highest number possible) you get a total of 45,313. While I am not ready to release exactly how many members Assemblies of God Jobs Online has had in the 7+ years it has been online, I will share that we've had between 10,000 and 15,000 registered members. So, if you take the lowest of my numbers (10k) and the greatest of A/G numbers (45k) this factors to nearly 1/4th of all Assemblies of God ministers and churches. Of course, I could have gone with just Licensed Ministers and shown the fact that AGJobs.Org has had almost as many members (if not more, as I said, I'm not going to share exactly how many we've had, eyes I might not want reading this might be reading this) have joined AGJobs.Org as there are ministers themselves! I will share that less then 3% of our members have been non-licensed pastors - instead being members of nomination committees. Overall, I think my 1/4th of all Assemblies of God ministers and churches is 100% "fuzzy math", and that's all I'm going to say about the matter... you do your own math ;)

*3 = These numbers are not fuzzy! These numbers are based on an average of the past two-years of posted Open Positions. Sorry, but I am not willing to share exactly how many positions were used to compute these numbers... but it was a lot!

*4 = These numbers were taken from the 'Trinity Foundation' (a rather shady public, nonprofit organization serving the public interest through religious communications) website, located at: http://www.trinityfi.org/press/latimes04.html - granted, not exactly the most upright group, but I'm sure their numbers are fairly accurate... or there would be massive law suites against them by TBN... if there are not already thousands already!

Rob Henson @greybear ·

John,

I agree with the fact that many of those in the ministry are underpaid as professionals. There are those who have invested in a seminary education and others who have added degrees as well. If these folks were to be in any other profession they would be sought after as, "Best in the Field". For these individuals I think congregations need to take a serious look at why they are treating these people as less than professionals.

I do want to interject that just like the other areas of the professional world, a person in ministry needs to put in their time and effort to get that salary. A laid back individual who is not actively doing should not receive a yearly increase just because they are on the payroll of the church. No one deserves a raise they earn it. Many churches do themselves an injustice by not having a tool with to measure those on the payroll. Our previous pastor was given a list of minimal work to complete in a month's time and turned in an activity sheet to our Ruling Elders. Some on the board had issues with this, but it was only a tool for accountability for our pastor. He did not find it a threat and instead found it a great tool for reflection when he became down about his own ministry goals.

That said, I think it is important to really look at any data shared when it comes to salary professionals. What other benefits are not being included in the $ amount. Our pastor fets free medical appointments, his house was paid for including repairs as long as he lives there, he has 4 weeks of vacation but has never been denied extra time off, his taxes are done free, he receives free financial counselling if needed, he receives discounts at local auto repair shops, he has unlimited use of church vehicles, his major medical and health insurance is paid, he has an excellent retirement program, he can build his personal library free, and he has a 0% interest line of credit with the church for financial emergencies.

What would the value of these be? Well it's enough to keep him at this church for 11+ years and he doesn't intend to go anywhere. One might say he has it pretty good. His church membership is 120, average attendance is less than 90 a Sunday. I think what made the difference is that he has built a personal relationship with his church. He is what we call "approachable". I find that not all people in the ministry are. His church really knows and loves him for who he is. For those who aren't receiving financial advancements might look at relationships and whether their expectations are to high for those they are serving. A church of 12 members will likely not be able to pay a salary of $45,000/yr, no matter how much they love them or the Lord.

Enough said.

In Christ,
GreyBear

Rob Henson @greybear ·

[u]Where I'm Coming From:[/u]
My wife and I served in the ministry for 2 years at a boys home for $28k/yr. We went trusting God. Our house sold a year after we left for less than we bought it for 8 years earlier. I spent every dime of saving and investment just to keep our heads above water. House Parenting does not permit for a second job even if you wanted one. Two of my children were assaulted during that time. I am starting all over again financially the same as I was over 15 years ago. And trying desperately to repair our family. The cost of ministry is high no matter what kind.
[list=1]
[*] Those in the ministry deserve the best salaries because they serve God and people for some reason don't seem to be focusing on that issue.

No kidding, been there. Most people see the ministry as servanthood in action. It's not to be about money, we are to just to be happy to be selected by God to serve Him and worry about reward in Heaven. Might be something there.

[*] Small Pastor salaries may effect whether a church closes.

*Most small closing churches have a history that lead them to decreasing numbers. Many have lost any drive to "do" God's will or work. They just want to show up on Sunday. They are tired and some are physically dieing. For a few it may simply be that God is done in that building. Pastors don't make or break a church God or Satan do.

[*] Some are being grossly overpaid while others work 2 jobs to make ends meet.

*Fact of absolutely and paid business or company. This can only be regulated by those in positions to make the rules. Get to one of these position and change the rules.
[/list]

In Christ,
GreyBear

David Occhipinti @treasurer ·

Folks,

This is an interesting and heated topic so I hope no one takes offense to what I am going to write here. There are many ways at looking at salaries
since I am the treasurer at my church I look at them as a percentage of total income. Many times there are small churches that pay up to
50% of the total income of the church. Our church of 300 tries to keep the total salary base to 33% right now this is at 50%.

What concerns me when I hear pastors of all kinds discussing salaries I wonder first hand, is this their calling or not. There are many ways to make
a buck in this great country I would not stand in the way of anyone who wants to make a good salary. The problem is that in the recent postings
it appears there is a tone of finger pointing that the "board members" who are setting salaries are not being just and in some cases maybe they are not. In our
case we had a pastor that was making 2X the average salary of his constituents and was still not happy. Living in the most expensive area (not in the city where the church was) This attitude caused a division in the body and ultimately hurt Gods church.

It really is not a matter of paying a fair salary, there are many times we wish we could pay more but there must be some consideration
to the economics and the churches ability to pay a "good" wage. I know that pastors are on call 27/7, I know that the job is tough and the pay is not great but what
did you get into it for? Gods blessings or mans?

I think this problem of "salary first" is becoming systemic in nature. We have interviewed many young men for a youth pastor position and many that
have come the first thing they want to know is how much salary are they going to get. If you do this in the business world you get shown the door! and that is
what we did with these.

Regards

Marilyn Sorrells @thepastorswife ·

Well let me share my 2 cents:) As the wife of a pastor who leads a small church I can say that salary is a big issue. Surprisingly, it's not a big issue to us.

Let me first say that our salary is not out of the church's range as far as budget is concerned. We aren't pulling down 45k a year that's for sure LOL

There are people in our congregation (those of the older generation) who seem to think that the money they "pay" us is huge and "why do we need that much money?" "Why are we paying for pastor's gas to do hospital visits, he makes $$ a week from us." Those kinds of comments are hard to take gracefully and with Christian mindset.

Money is such a huge focus for some of our people that the pastor's salary is a big bullseye for them. Let's not mention that we have no insurance (life or health), no real benefits that man can offer BUT and this is a big BUT, God is our provider. Not the church, not the people who sit in the pews . . . Jesus Christ is our provider.

My husband works a part-time job to supplement our income and I also work part-time. We are perfectly content with what we have. No complaints and certainly no desire to get more money out of the church in fact at a recent business meeting (which I loathe!) my husband made it clear that he didn't want any sort of raise from them. He stated that if he needed more money he'd work harder at his other job.

We definately need some humble-pie in alot of our churches regarding pastor salaries. I'm all for blessing the socks off your pastors but if it becomes a status symbol and something that is "expected" maybe a season of "want" is what is needed for some of these pastors who seem to be defined by their salary.

I thank God daily for our little church even w/it's "issues".

In Christ Alone,
Marilyn

Katelyn Ambrose @followerofchrist ·

I think that was a very important point to make. Our pastors' work their tails off. My youth pastor teaches Sr. High, Jr. High, Jr. High Sunday School, Sr. High Sunday School, Drop Zone, and a Dicipleship group. He spends the majority of his time at the church or at a church activity. A lot of spiritual and emotional work goes into the job as well. One thing I would like to praise, though, is that our pastors' get a lot of paid vacation time. I think that is very essential to their job. I think they could have their pay raised a little though. They deserve it. They poor their hearts and their lives into the lives of the youth in the church as well as the adults.

Jackie Moore @devinemommie ·

Lets face it in American society their are some jobs you do and it has nothing to do with the money. My grandfather is a semi-retired minister. He had eight children and was the pastor of a small town church. He had to lay bricks in order to feed his family. He also farmed his land. He has worked hard his entire life so that he could continue to Preach and spread the word. To this day he still works and he is 82 years old. He does not complain. If you ask him about money he will tell you two things, one is that he is rich, maybe not in your eyes, but he is rich. Two that you should never chase the dollar or get money hungry.

I know every Pastor deserves a living wage, but ministry can not always pay that. I do feel that their could be a better way. In the Assemblies of God you have some Churches that could afford to sponsor other Churches and Pastors that don't. The larger wealthier churches should help to breach the gap and take care of there fellow ministers. Lets face it for every minister making 28,000 p/y their is a Mega Church with a millionaire for a Pastor. This is absurd and church members should address the issue. If you are tithing your money to the church then you have a say to where it is spent. Also, there is no rule on where your tithes go. If your church is not struggling, take a week of tithes every month and give them to a local church that is. Ask your Pastor if you sponsor another church. We can fix the problem. Often unless someone addresses it, most of us do not realize it is that bad.

Barbara Mcdonough @goingbroke ·

As the parent of a minister I have to say that if I had to do it all over again, I would try and guide my child into a different field. After having to take out personal loans for her to attend a Master's Comission, then 4 years of college, I would hope that the churches would at least provide enough for minster's to live and to be able to accept their financial responsibilities. Now, 3 years after graduation, I am still paying for loans that I either co-signed or took out parent loans with the understanding that I was not paying for college. Tjhis is so unfare to parents who are struggling themselves to make ends meet.
I am not proud that my child is a minister, what I am is losing my home from all of these loans. When I have to make a choice between paying my mortage or paying my child's student loan - what decision should I make? Or do I get to eat this week or have heat? There should be some better financial checking to make sure that the parents can afford to continue supporting this child long after they graduate from college. This appears to be now a calling for rich kids and not for poor kids.
My only regret is that I did not know then what I know now. After graduation, my daughter's 1st ministry she was making around $3 an hour and working about 60 hours a week. This left no time for a 2nd job. Now in her 2nd ministry - she is not even being paid but again working around 60 hours a week.
This may have been a career at one point where your families wealth did not matter, but unfortunately, we live in a very expensive world and as a parent I should not have to continue to pay for my grown up child. What is going to happen if she marries, which she says will only be a minister, and then has children? If she cannot support herself, she will not be able to support a husband and children as well.
Going ablsolutely broke from paying all thesde loans!

Rye Bailey @froman ·

In response to Going Broke,

I wholeheartedly understand the frustration with paying back student loans. My wife has a bachelor's degree in psychology and owes 30,000 for her school loans. After I'm done with Bible College I will owe 40,000.

I have no idea how we are going to pay these loans, as they are going to add up to hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars a month, for the next 40 years, that we don't really have to spend, because pastors are paid so little.

I sometimes wish that I could do any other job and have peace...

However, the call of God remains strong on my life and I must trust in Him to provide for me.

I have thought about asking the leadership of the AG to set up a scholarship/loan payback fund that church members could donate money to (such as STL, BGMC, etc.) to help those students already in our Bible colleges or those who have graduated and could use help paying back loans.

I truly believe that education is invaluable to the ministry, but the money issues are a major problem. I believe until we tweak the system to help those who want to seek education to better prepare themselves for God's Calling that we will be doing ourselves and our churches and big disservice. Those who could get a Bible Education won't, and because of it our pastors will be under-educated (notice I said, "under" not "un"--many pastors who don't have a formal education know the Bible and how to teach it better than I ever will), less effective, and those who feel the Call of God will choose other professions that are easier to live off of.

Marven Brown @atrest ·

Boy, this blogging stuff can keep you up all night if you're not careful. This is the second I've posted in my life, but I simply must let it out.

Two things:

  1. How many Christians are perfectly content to pay for cable/satellite television (what's the real benefit?), new cars (when used can be perfectly suitable), and a host of other non-necessities while "struggling" to be generous in giving? Our churches ought to be FAT with money, overflowing. How is it possible that we can countenance our houses being in better shape than our places of worship? Since it's awkward for a pastor to say such things, let a respected deacon or lay leader stand in and lay this on thick: Why should our pastor and his/her family be forced to skimp and pinch and prove to us that they are sincere in their desire to serve? Why can we not richly bless those from whom we expect so much? Show me the love, everybody.

  2. Would-be pastors: Before you get your head in the clouds and your financial situation in the gutter - learn about money! You need to be an expert in the pragmatic aspects of money BEFORE you get a "master's" in divinity. In my opinion (and that of the author of Proverbs), it is FOOLISH to borrow money to go to school: "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender." If you are in debt, get out of debt before you become a pastor. Then you will truly be serving only the One Master.

Angela Kahl @savdbyluv ·

One way for churches to better compensate their pastors without more expense is to make sure they take the IRS regulations into account when they set up the pastor's compensation package. Because pastors are considered "self-employed," their tax burden is greater. That makes allowances offered by the church a better deal for the church and the pastor. I found a great summary of ways to save here:

http://www.davidarnett.com/user/How%20to%20Increase%20a%20Pastors%20Pay.doc

This works to the pastor's advantage because they get more compensation with less tax burden. (Allowances are not taxable income.) It works to the church's advantage because they may be able to hire a better pastor for the same amount of money just by reclassifying the expense.

The key is to make sure the allowances are set up correctly tax-wise and then make sure that there is documentation for every allowance that is reimbursed. Any allowance paid that does not have written substantiation becomes TAXABLE INCOME to the pastor, so don't let that slide. The church I worked for offered allowances for things like, continuing education, professional materials, housing and utilities and health expenses.

It may also be helpful to do some research into the average professional salary in your local economy. This is especially important for congregational churches who may not have as much input from a supervising entity in these matters. (Congregational churches make all decisions at the local level even if they are in voluntary association with other churches--Southern Baptists would be congregational. In contrast, connectional churches--like United Methodists--have district, conference and overall governing bodies whose ruling supersede any local decisions.)

On a side note: Until I worked at a church, I really had no idea just how much a pastor (and his family) have to sacrifice. Their lives are really not their own. And the devil is working against them at every turn. Make sure you keep them in your prayers!

:) ***