Results of a combined research effort by Leadership Network and the Vanderbloemen Search Group revealed some generalizations that can be made about the finances of large churches (1,000 or more in attendance). To start, researchers explained that “the typical large American church was (on average) founded in 1977, seats 800 worshipers and offers five weekly services at two campuses. The church’s 52-year-old senior pastor was hired in 2005, it employs 25 staff members, and attendance has been recently growing 7 percent per year.”
Nearly half of large churches spend between 39 percent and 52 percent of their annual budget on staffing costs. These churches maintain about 1 full-time paid staff employee for every 51 to 90 attendees, and salaries are most impacted by church size, with pastor’s age, age of the church, theology and race offering negligible impact. The salary of the senior pastor makes up about 3.4 percent of a church’s budget and is at least 30 percent higher than the next highest-paid church employee.
The majority of large churches measure total attendance and giving according to budget. Fewer than half of these large churches track number of baptisms, conversions, small group members or new members.
Warren Bird, research director at Leadership Network, commented in the study report that churches would do well to consider children’s ministry a key strategy in growing their congregation. “The most strategic churches we work with are realizing that a premier children’s pastor/leader can become one of, if not the largest growth engines for the church. And such churches are paying accordingly. We are seeing an increasing trend of churches who pay the top person over children’s ministry more and more. In some cases, the children’s pastor is one of the top paid people on staff, higher than the student pastor, worship pastor or small groups pastor.”