Pastors aren’t enjoying the fruits of a booming American economy.
A new GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources survey finds compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors and church staff has lagged behind the growth in the cost-of-living over the past two years.
In addition, the 2018 SBC Church Compensation Study found that health insurance coverage remains low.
The biannual study took data collected anonymously from ministers and office/custodial personnel of Southern Baptist churches and church-type missions.
It found compensation (salary plus housing) increased 3.8 percent for full-time, Southern Baptist senior pastors over the last two years, 1.5 percent for full-time staff ministers and 2.3 percent for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for the same two-year period increased 4.6 percent.
“After a period of very low inflation, the cost of living has moved closer to typical growth in consumer prices,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Churches that are unable to reflect this in their wages will hurt their staff.”
Churches reported several factors affected salaries including weekly church attendance, education level and total years of experience. Larger churches tend to pay their pastors more, the study shows. For every additional 100 attendees, an otherwise similar pastor’s compensation is on average $3,641 higher.
Pastors who spent more time in school also saw a bump in their paychecks. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $5,681 more than similarly qualified pastors with no college education or an associate degree. Master’s and doctorate degrees correspond with compensation increases of $5,754 and $10,868, respectively, when compared to college graduates.
Falling even further behind the pace of inflation was the entire pay package (salary, retirement, housing and other benefits including insurance). Senior pastors saw a 4.4 percent increase, slightly under the pace of inflation. However, the growth in pay packages for full-time staff ministers and office personnel was much lower (1.3 percent and 1.5 percent respectively).
“We have always endeavored to ensure churches take proper care of their staff,” said Greg Love, who provides leadership for the church retirement relationship team at GuideStone.
“A church can maximize its limited resources by implementing a sound, structured compensation plan and not a lump-sum payment. This enables the church to provide salaries and suitable benefits for workers and their families, including life and health coverage,” Love said.
“Additionally, it empowers the church to provide highly important retirement contributions to ministry workers. These significant tasks can be accomplished as the church navigates smart financial stewardship, equips believers for ministry and strives for Kingdom impact.”
The survey found 23 percent of churches pay for medical insurance for the senior pastor and his family, 17 percent provide for the pastor and his wife, and 9 percent provide only for the pastor. Half of churches provide no medical coverage.
A final category in the survey was vacation time. A number of factors also impact those numbers. Larger churches tend to give pastors more vacation, with otherwise similarly qualified pastors averaging one additional day for every 271 attendees. Vacation also varies slightly by region. Pastors in the South tend to receive less vacation with 1.8 fewer days on average than otherwise comparable pastors in the Northeast, 0.8 fewer days than those in the Midwest, and 1.1 fewer days than those in the West.