5 Common Ways Churches Determine Pastors’ Salaries

Pastor salary
What factors determine what you pay your pastors? (Free Digital Photos)

There has been considerable interest on my previous posts dealing with pastors' salaries. One of the most common questions that I am asked is: "How do churches determine the salary of a pastor?"

In this article, I offer the five most common ways churches establish the pay level of a pastor. I am offering these five approaches from an informational perspective rather than evaluating them. Also, many churches use some combination of these factors.

1. The pastor's salary at the previous church. By far, more churches use the pastor's previous salary as benchmark to establish the new salary. For example, if a pastor has an income of $50,000 at his current church, his prospective church may offer him $55,000, or a 10 percent increase.

2. The previous pastor's salary. The second most common benchmark to determine a pastor's salary is the previous pastor's salary. Allow me to make an editorial comment here. If you are a pastor who has been declining raises for a few years, you could be hurting your church and the next pastor. There could very well be a big gap between your current salary and the compensation needed for the next pastor.

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3. Experience. Simply stated, most pastors' salaries increase with increasing years of ministry experience.

4. Education. I have observed this factor decrease in importance over the past 15 years. I don't see nearly as many churches requiring a doctor's degree as they did in the past. And I am seeing fewer churches require a seminary master's degree, though that degree is still important for many churches.

5. Demographics of church. The specific demographics to which I refer are family income levels. I know one church that used the estimated median family income of its congregation as the base to determine the pastor's salary. They would then adjust by other factors, such as experience and education.

These factors all have their strengths and their weaknesses. I have noted in previous posts some resources that could help your church to offer your pastor a fair salary.

I would love to hear from you about these five most common approaches. I would also appreciate input about other ways your church determines the pastor's salary. Finally, it would be great to get input regarding other church staff positions. Thanks for your feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.

How are salaries determined for ministry leaders in your church?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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