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Compensation study: Ministers’ salaries outpace inflation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Average compensation for fulltime Southern Baptist pastors increased more than $3,400 since 2004, according to a biennial ministers’ compensation study.

The data also showed that ministers’ compensation increases over the past decade have significantly outpaced inflation.

The study was coordinated by Don Spencer, director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s church financial benefits department, in cooperation with financial benefits directors in state Baptist conventions throughout the nation and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The study included responses from 17,350 pastors and church staff members from more than 7,000 Southern Baptist churches in all 50 states. It is designed to provide detailed information for local church leaders responsible for recommending ministers’ compensation packages.

Bob Henry, who heads GuideStone’s financial solutions and services for churches, said GuideStone officials “are excited about partnering with all of the state conventions to provide this kind of information. We think it will be especially helpful to churches that are in the process of calling a pastor or staff member or even in budget preparation time.”

Spencer, who began conducting a similar study on the state convention level in 1986, worked with peers in other state conventions to expand it to a multi-state study 10 years later. The project has grown from 12 participating state conventions in 1996 to a national effort two years ago.

Church leaders “are constantly wanting to know what similar churches are paying” their staff members, Spencer noted. The compensation study “gives them that information in an objective way. How they use it is up to them.”

The average salary and housing allowance for fulltime Southern Baptist pastors is $49,952, an increase of 7.4 percent over 2004. The average pay package, which includes insurance and retirement benefits, is $59,995, a gain of 6.7 percent over the previous study.

Average salary and housing for fulltime pastors ranges from $33,956 in the Dakotas to $78,558 in the District of Columbia. Fulltime pastors in the Baptist General Convention of Texas rank second at $64,441.

The study also includes compensation information about bivocational pastors as well as fulltime and bivocational ministerial staff members, office personnel and custodians.

Among bivocational pastors, the national compensation average is $15,865, an increase of $1,077 from 2004. The average total pay package is $17,385.

On the state convention level, average salary and housing for bivocational pastors ranges from $8,343 in Utah/Idaho to $22,374 in Arizona. Hawaii ranks second at $21,323.

Among fulltime church staff ministers, the average salary and housing is $46,791 and the average total pay package is $56,591.

Among bivocational church staff ministers, average salary and housing is $12,592 nationally and average total pay package is $13,496.

Comparing ministers’ average compensation to the rate of inflation, Spencer said fulltime pastors’ average compensation increased 7.4 percent from 2004 to 2006 compared to an inflation rate of 6.8 percent. Over the past decade, average compensation levels increased 50.8 percent compared to a 28.3 percent inflation rate, he added.

Spencer cautioned, however, that “I still have a great concern for those ministers who are obviously underpaid. I don’t think a church gets the best out of its minister in that situation.”

He also urged congregations to “address getting ministry-related expenses [such as travel and convention expenses, books and continuing education] out of the pay package.”

He compared lumping such ministry expenses into a minister’s pay package to “hiring a church secretary and including office expenses as part of the pay.”

“Churches are increasingly recognizing that expenses are not part of the compensation,” he said. “They should be considered totally independent of compensation and benefits and should be paid using an accountable reimbursement plan.”

This year’s study also found that the average percentage of church budgets used for staff compensation and benefits is 47.1 percent. The average ranges from 39 percent in Wyoming to 54.7 percent in Indiana.

“I think it’s important for churches to evaluate their pay arrangements regularly,” Henry emphasized. “This gives them another tool in comparing what they’re doing with other churches of comparable size and comparable budgets. It should put relevant information into the hands of those people making budget and compensation decisions in the local church.”

The compensation study and related resources are available online at www.guidestone.org. In addition to the state and national averages, church leaders can compile customized compensation study reports based on the attendance and budget size of comparable churches.

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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