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Southern Baptist ministers’ salaries outpace inflation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)– The average combined salary and housing allowance for full-time Southern Baptist pastors is $46,505, according to a national compensation study. That is a jump of 6.7 percent from a similar study conducted two years ago.

The average total pay package, including insurance and annuity benefits, is $56,236 nationally — an increase of 7.6 percent over the previous study.

Don Spencer, director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s annuity department, has been compiling a biennial compensation study for Kentucky Baptist churches since 1986.

In 1996, he spearheaded an effort to expand the study to include several other state Baptist conventions. The number of participating conventions grew from 12 in 1996 to 35 in 2002. This year’s study includes more than 20,000 participants from 8,600 Southern Baptist churches in all 50 states.

“It started with several state annuity representatives trying to pull together to do it,” Spencer said. “It kind of mushroomed from there.

“The joint study provides a much larger database so churches can compare compensation to churches more like their own. It’s just a matter of a church being able to operate with as much information as it can have.”

The Southern Baptist Annuity Board (renamed GuideStone Financial Resources during the SBC annual meeting) also has helped facilitate the study in recent years.

“Our hope is that churches will use this information to evaluate their compensation arrangements for current and future staff,” said Bob Henry, head of GuideStone’s church retirement marketing department.

The average compensation in salary plus housing allowance for full-time pastors varies by state, ranging from $34,397 in Montana to $63,818 in the District of Columbia. Full-time pastors in the Baptist General Convention of Texas rank second at $56,581.

The study also provides compensation information about bivocational pastors, full-time and bivocational church staff ministers as well as office personnel and custodians.

“One of the values of this is it allows a church to not make compensation decisions in a vacuum,” Henry said. “It helps churches get a more global view of what is happening in the area of compensation for pastors and church staff members.”

Bivocational pastors’ salary and housing allowance combined average $14,788 nationally, an increase of 6.5 percent since 2002. Their average total pay package is $16,340, a gain of 8.4 percent in the past two years.

Compensation for Southern Baptist bivocational pastors also varies by state, with combined salary and housing allowance averaging from $9,611 in Maryland/Delaware to $18,459 in the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention. Hawaii ranks second at $17,830.

Among full-time church staff ministers, the combined salary and housing allowance averages $44,730 nationally and the total pay package is $54,184.

Among bivocational church staff ministers, the combined salary and housing allowance averages $10,725 and the total pay package is $11,576.

Citing other findings in the study, Spencer said he is pleased that ministers’ compensation has outpaced inflation in recent years. He said the 6.7 percent increase in full-time pastors’ average compensation since 2002 compares to a 4.3 percent inflation rate. Since 1996, full-time pastors’ average compensation has jumped 40.4 percent, doubling the inflation rate of 20.2 percent.

“The level of increased compensation is significant since ministers traditionally have been underpaid when compared to secular positions requiring similar background and responsibilities,” he said. “Little by little, compensation for church staff is improving.”

One direct benefit to churches, Spencer said, is that ministers who receive sufficient compensation “can then be free of undue financial concerns, thus allowing them to be the best ministers they can be.”

Noting that the study is available as a resource for local churches, Spencer added, “We do it with complete respect for the autonomy of the local church to use the information as it sees fit.”

Churches and individuals can gain access to the full study and compile customized compensation reports online through the “2004 Compensation Study” link at www.absbc.org.

    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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