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Wages of Ministry Documented in New Study

New data collected by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as part of a nationwide survey paints a detailed picture of how churches are paying their ministers and church staff.

For the first time in many years, the BGCT has collected ministerial compensation data from a representative random sample of churches. The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Texas data is included in a national study of Baptist ministerial compensation coordinated by Don Spencer, annuity director with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Complete results of the study may be accessed online through www.baptiststandard.com. The online data may be sorted by state, church size, staff position, years of education, years of experience and other criteria to create a customized report.

The statewide compensation averages reported for BGCT churches on the website are slightly skewed higher than they should be, explained Clay Price, research director for the BGCT and coordinator of the Texas portion of the study. That is because pastors of larger churches were more likely to return their survey forms than pastors of smaller churches.

However, when the data are weighted to account for that problem, the mean average annual salary for full-time pastors in all BGCT churches is $45,962. Salary in this study is defined as salary plus housing allowance for ordained clergy. Salary does not include benefits such as insurance, annuity contributions or ministry expenses.

Texas pastoral salaries reported in the survey range from less than $20,000 annually to nearly $200,000.

The weighted mean average salary for non-pastor ministers serving Texas Baptist churches is $37,549. Compensation for these church staff members ranges from $17,000 to $121,000.

The online data given in custom reports sorted by church size do not need to be adjusted, Price said. They give an accurate picture of compensation among same-size churches.

One of the most consistent findings of the BGCT survey was the correlation of church size to salary, Price noted. Among full-time pastors, for example, average salary increases steadily in relation to resident membership.

The same trend did not hold true as readily for other ministerial staff members. Differences in their pay appear to be due to other factors not visible in the survey.

Somewhat surprisingly, Price noted, the amount of education a pastor has and the number of years of experience appear to account for only minor differences in compensation. In general, church size is the stronger indicator.

For example, the biggest gap found among various educational levels of full-time pastors relates to earning a college degree. Pastors with less than four years of college earn an average of $36,722, compared to an average of $59,115 for pastors with four to six years of post-high-school education.

The difference in average compensation for a full-time pastor with four years of college versus a pastor with extensive graduate work is less than $3,000.

Spencer, who has been coordinating a similar study in Kentucky for several years, said the goal is to provide helpful information to church personnel committees, finance committees and search committees.

“My whole philosophy of ministerial compensation is that ministers should be adequately compensated so they can take care of their families and be free to be the best ministers they can be,” he explained. “If the compensation is low and the minister is giving his energy to meeting the financial needs of his family, he won’t be the best pastor he can be.”

One of the keys to budgeting adequate compensation for ministers is to “leave ministry-related expenses out of the pay package,” he admonished. “It’s assumed expenses are paid over and above compensation and benefits.

“The reality is that money for expenses is not compensation, even though some churches treat it as such. What is costs to do the job (such as travel expenses and conference fees) should have no bearing on what a minister’s compensation is,” he emphasized.

This year’s study also gleaned other information about BGCT churches and their ministers:

  • The average tenure of full-time pastors responding to the survey was 7.2 years, significantly higher than some previously published national data on pastoral tenure.
  • 27 percent of full-time BGCT pastors live in parsonages owned by their churches.
  • 76 percent of full-time pastors receive annuity contributions from their churches.
  • 24 percent of full-time pastors receive Social Security equivalency payments from their churches. Because ordained ministers are classified as self-employed by the IRS, they are personally responsible for paying all their Social Security taxes, unlike regular employees, who pay only half this tax. Some churches offset this difference by giving their ordained ministers an annual amount equal to the Social Security tax the church otherwise would have paid for a non-ordained employee.
  • 78 percent of full-time pastors receive insurance coverage as a benefit from their churches.
  • Full-time pastors typically receive between two and four weeks of vacation time annually, often with additional time allowed for revivals.

The BGCT data in this study included responses from 247 full-time pastors and 441 full-time ministers who are not pastors.

The study also includes data from bivocational ministers, but that data is considered not as reliable because of small sample sizes. Data for bivocational pastors is available online.

Data available online also includes compensation for church secretaries and custodial help.
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Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Baptist Standard. Used by permission.