Majority of Pastors Suffer in Silence over Financial Challenges

Many church officials are keeping their financial struggles to themselves.
Many church officials are keeping their financial struggles to themselves. (iStock photo )

Research released from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) this week shows that the majority of evangelical pastors in the United States serve in small churches with significant personal financial challenges. Pastors also report that they are not familiar with resources to help them and do not confide in anyone outside their household about financial stress.

"The vast majority of pastors do not have their own radio or TV show, robust church staff or megachurch attendance," said Leith Anderson, NAE president. "Rather they faithfully serve in small churches and face financial challenges stemming from student debt, low salaries and medical expenses. And sadly, they often feel they have no one to turn to for help."

The poll, conducted by Grey Matter Research in July 2015, found that of the 4,249 pastors surveyed, 80 percent serve in congregations with fewer than 200 people, and 55 percent have fewer than 100 people in their church.

Half of the pastors serve in churches with annual budgets under $125,000 that must cover the cost of the church facilities, programs and pastor/staff payroll. Fifty percent of pastors receive less than $50,000 per year in compensation, with 30 percent having student loan debt averaging $36,000.

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Many pastors also struggle to secure long-term financial stability. Thirty-three percent have under $10,000 in retirement funds. Twenty-nine percent have $0 in personal savings.

Over 85 percent of pastors said they did not receive financial training from their seminary. Many pastors (37 percent) are not familiar with what resources their denomination offers for personal finances. Over a third of pastors said they have no one outside their household in whom they can confide about the things that stress them financially.

This spring, with support from Lilly Endowment Inc., the NAE launched a multi-year initiative to address economic challenges facing pastors. The initiative will focus on connecting and resourcing denominations, churches and pastors in the area of pastor finances.

Download the full report at NAE.net/pastorresearch.

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