What is the Average Pay for a Full Time Southern Baptist Pastor or Staff Member?

by Jared Moore on May 13, 2011 · 50 comments

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

According to the Western Recorder August 3, 2010 issue, the average salary for a full time Southern Baptist Pastor is $55,829; while the average pay package for a full time Southern Baptist pastor is $66,275. I don’t know about you, but these amounts sound insanely high to me. I figured that pastors made about $10,000 less than this; I make almost $28,000 less than this (God takes care of us). I want to encourage pastors, regardless what you make, to enjoy the Lord through faithfully loving and serving your local church. If you are struggling supporting your family, let your church know (don’t expect them to be psychic); so that you can possibly work some biovocationally (My church allows this). Let us however be good stewards with what the Lord gives us, faithfully providing for our families unto His glory alone as examples for all that may see us.

More statistics (SBC Averages):

Biovocational pastors: Salary – $18,971; Pay Package – $20,667

Full-time Staff: Salary – $54,150; Pay Package – $64,804

Biovocational Staff: Salary – $14,071; Pay Package – $14,464

(Source: Western Recorder Aug. 3, 2010 Issue)

What do you think about these numbers? Should they be higher or lower? Or, are they where they should be?

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

1 Smuschany May 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I have always believed that a full time senior pastor should be paid the average salary for the congregation and area in which he serves. A full time pastor in rural Hickville USA shouldn’t be paid much more than 30-35k, where as a full time pastor in say Beverly Hills, should make a good deal more. Bi-vocational ministers (as I, God willing, will soon be) should make less (from the area average) based on how much work the congregation expects.

If we pay people how much they “deserve” than mothers would be paid several million a year and politicians should be paid nothing. I dont know where pastors fit into that scale…lol

2 Tim Rogers May 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Brother Jared,

You can find this research on Lifeway.com. As you can tell from this link you can define it by whatever ever means you decide. For example the link I sent you in this comment is based on average worship attendance in North Carolina.

3 Ben May 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm

If my memory serves me correctly, the Jews would start a synagogue if a community had at least 10 Jewish families. The idea behind that being that, if each family was tithing, the teacher would have has a salary that was the mean of the ten families.

I think it’s a good standard to go by….obviously, you have to remove outliers (if there are 20 people in your congregation and one of them makes $40 million a year, and everyone else makes 40k..that is going to mess with the math…that could be fixed by using a median instead.)

With a bi-vocational pastor, just rate it by hours per week, etc.

4 Christiane May 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

“If my memory serves me correctly, the Jews would start a synagogue if a community had at least 10 Jewish families.”

It took at least ten men to form a ‘minyan’, so this makes sense.
A ‘minyan’ is the quorum required for public prayer in synagogue.

5 Christiane May 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm

JARED, it is possible for the ‘average’ to be high IF the range is skewed at the top. Are there some Southern Baptist pastors with incomes at very high levels ? If so, just a few of these mammoth salaries might increase the ‘average’.

See if you find out the ‘median’ salary. It might be more representative of the real average.

Actually, the closer the ‘mean’, ‘median’, and ‘mode’ measurements are, when compared, likely the better off pastors in the SBC would be. AND their wives. AND their families.
Just a thought.

6 Ryan May 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm

The $65k works out to be a bit more when you count tax breaks, but is reasonable for a man with an MDiv in an average income location. I could not in good conscience pay a senior pastor less than that. In the northeast or California I would probably go a good bit higher, and adjust lower for the rural midwest or South.

7 Andrew Wencl May 13, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Remember that averages are just that: averages. A regional average would be more helpful. When it comes to salaries, a box plot would be the best way for us average Joes to understand and analyze.

8 Ryan May 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

P.S., I think the numbers for bivocational pastors are horrifying. Most likely they are working for minimum wage. Regardless of education level, a good man is worth more than that.

9 Stephen M Young II May 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm

What is the Median salary? That might help paint the picture straight.

10 William May 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Let’s break that $64k pay package down.

Comp. Health Ins: 12,000
Retirement contribution 6,000
Housing Allowance 18,000
Auto Reimbursement 8,000
Salary 22,000

Of that the minister gets checks for $48k

He pays SETA taxes on $40k, which cost him $6200
He should at least add $3k to the retirement
You figure that auto expenses (he has to have a car and is required
to use it for work) will easily eat up the $8k because no car lasts
forever.

The health insurance is catastrophic only, meaning, say $1k in out of
pocket health expenses, if he and family stay healthy.

That leaves about $30k, of which mortgage (escrow and all) and utilities
probably eat up $15k.

That leaves $15k for everything else. He probably pays no income tax at all, may get earned income credit.

That leaves…well…his spouse having to work. If not, then things are really tight. If you ignore adding to retirement, you will never catch up unless you inherit a bunch or wifey gets a great paying job, but she better not wait too late.

Lots of our members live on less.

Good luck.

11 William May 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

And what they “should” be is interesting to ponder but irrelevant. Supply and demand count more that whatever ‘should’ be paid.

And, if you live in a pastorium, add a nice sum annually, since you and your family will likely not die in the pastorium.

12 Stephen M Young II May 13, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Pastorium?? That is the first time I ever heard that word. (I heard it because I had to read it out loud.) I guess this is another word for parsonage.

13 Jim Shaver May 14, 2011 at 8:21 am

Actually had one man call the Pastor’s Home (which happened to be a single wide trailer) a “Parsonal”.

14 Dave Miller May 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Parsonal? Oh, my goodness.

15 Squirrel May 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I will now call this shelf of Bibles behind my desk “The Parsenal” :D

16 Christiane May 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

That’s cute. There is more truth in that than not.

Once Mother Theresa was stopped at a check-point and questioned about whether or not she was armed. She showed them her Bible and prayer books.

17 Smuschany May 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm

In regards to what pastors “should” be paid, I am reminded of something that multiple professors here at MBTS have told us students. “If you are in ministry to get rich, you are in the wrong profession.” Lets face it, some churches CANT pay their ministers a lot. As ministers we MUST realize that, and put our trust in God. We as ministers need to realize that if we are called into a particular ministry, we need to stay there regardless of the pay. Ultimately God will provide! And I have serious doubts about men who base where they minister based on the pay. I say that as a man who is, God willing, about to enter a bi-vocational ministry, while being a full time MA-History student, and likely working part/full time at another job. I am willing to do all of that because I firmly believe and know that this is where God wants me. And if this church does ask me to serve them, I will do so even if they pay me only 100 (or even if that) a week. Why? Because this is where God is leading me. For me, it is as simple as that.

18 Christiane May 13, 2011 at 10:52 pm

And yet the Church is also called to treat its clergy with dignity and respect, and that includes a decent living wage with benefits necessary to provide a respectable living for a clergyman and his family.

Shouldn’t there be ‘solidarity’ among the members of the Church
WITH the pastor and his family,
so that doing what is right concerning ‘salary and benefits’ is the goal of all concerned ?

19 Joe Blackmon May 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

Here’s a funny story: The SBC church that we left was about 100 folks (+/-). They had a senior pastor and 3 other pastors. The senior pastor was paid $100,000 per year which was about 50% of the church’s receipts at one point. They lost about 10 families because the church began to be in serious dire straights, unable to pay bills ontime or make repairs (air conditioning, windows, etc) due to his salary being so out of line and when this was brought to the senior pastors attention, he went GHETTO on them. He honestly believed he deserved that salary.

20 Terry Lange May 14, 2011 at 9:46 am

Leaving out the bi-vocational figures. If that is just average, then I would like to see what above and below average are. I think I could survive on the averages – I currently work a secular job and do not make anything close to what a FT pastor/staff member makes. People say do not get in it for the money, but then when you look at 990′s from IRS, why is it that a lot of people in ministry make way more than those in the secular workforce?

21 Stephen M Young II May 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Don’t get in it for the money, but a lot don’t get out because of the money. I forgot where I read it, but there was a high percentage of pastors who would leave the ministry if they could find secular employment for the same pay, but since they can’t they stay in the ministry.

22 Jeremy Parks May 14, 2011 at 10:11 am

Wow… as an IMB person, I don’t come close to these figures. Even so, we live fine.

23 Carl May 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

What is ridiculous is the fact that ministers who have MDiv’s and doctorates are compensated so little according to most standards. It seems that there are not many people who understand the equivalence of these degrees to those in the secular world. If a man has an MDiv he has as much education as a Dr. in most fields. If churches can’t compensate accordingly, then they shouldn’t require these degrees from their pastors. We seriously need to rethink the religious educational system as well as how churches view education in light of compensation.

24 Mike Bergman May 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm

The church I’m at did a congregational survey when they were without a pastor. A high percentage of the congregation said they would be happy with a man who just had a BS or BA and nothing higher, yet nearly the same percentage wanted a man with a seminary education.

I think “seminary” is a buzz word to a lot of churches but they don’t get that seminary = Master’s or higher. And we’re not talking a normal masters either.

I did 5 years of college (granted a year of that was my own fault for transferring schools/changing programs) and 3 1/2 years of seminary for my masters. So 8 1/2 years total. I have friends in the mathematics and engineering fields who have doctorates that took just about 8-9 years.

I’ve had people tell me that I should go for a PhD. I laugh. I have no plans to become a professor of any kind, so what, am I going to spend another 5 years in seminary and that much more thousands in tuition, etc., for something that likely won’t make that much difference in my pay?

25 BDW May 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm

“If a man has an MDiv he has as much education as a Dr. in most fields.”

Do what? If a man has an MDiv he has as much education as someone with another type of masters in a different field.

26 Mike Bergman May 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm

A lot of master’s programs can be done in a strong year w/ a small dissertation. Usually 25-30 hours.

Not the 90-100 hours an M.Div is.

27 BDW May 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I don’t really think you can compare a MDiv program with another master’s program in terms of hours. The seminary programs required more hours than the M.A. programs here at Baylor – but I don’t see a difference in terms of course load and requirements.

I think there a few short M.A. programs here at Baylor. You can move from receiving a social work or accounting undergrad degree and complete a master’s program in an extra year.

A 30 hour masters would require two overload semesters at 12hrs a piece and full-time status in the summer. Then you’d have to work that thesis/project in. It can be done. Just like some can fly through a MDiv program. But most masters programs are not designed to be completed that quickly.

28 BDW May 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm

The masters theses in the programs I was affiliated with (Poli Sci, Philosophy, Church-State, Sociology, Religion, History) were all 100-200 pages in length (phd dissertation = 200 – 300). It would be extremely challenging to bang out a 150 page thesis while completing 25-30 hours of coursework in just one calendar year.

29 Mike Bergman May 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm

What I have to compare it to is an engineering school I started at and the meteorlogy program I finsihed in. In both cases, they had 5-year programs to get the BS and Masters (4 for the B, 1 for the M) w/ the anticipation you would go onto PhD work.

I have one friend who did his program in electrical engineering, covering the BS, Masters, and PhD in 8 1/2 years (4-1-3.5); another who did his in mathematics in 8 years (4-1-3).

When I was at SBTS, I think the average M.Div was ~4 years, and the PhD another 4-5 on top of that. That’s 8 years by itself.

30 BDW May 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm

My brother-in-law actually just graduated from Michigan State last week with his phd in Math. He was able to finish his undergrad in 2 years (lots of AP credit and community college courses taken while in high school), the masters in 2 years and phd in 4. He probably could have done the phd in 3. But no need to speed thru when you are getting experience teaching (same can be said about MDiv students taking 4 years while also working in a church)

I think some math and sciences programs are different than say a doctoral program in religion or history. I’ve had some friends finish up in math rather quickly but seen few speed thru the liberal arts programs.

I’m finishing my third year of doctoral work. 2 years of coursework, 9 months of reading and study for comp exams and now I’ve been working on my dissertation only for a few months. I want to be ready to defend the diss by early 2012 and walk in the Spring. Then again, given the current job market, I probably shouldn’t hurry as I’ve got a nice Fellowship funding me right now.

31 Carl May 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm

If you take 12 hours per semester, which you call overloaded, and 6 in the summer it still takes an M.Div student 3+ years of overloaded school work to graduate. Most do it in 4-5 years.

A Doctor of Jurisprudence takes 3-4 years.

A Networking Management Masters (computers) is 36 hours.

A Masters in Education Administration is 36 hours.

I think that Mike has it right when he says that most would be ok with a man having a B.S./B.A. but they also want a seminary graduate too. They simply don’t understand the system. I have an undergrad in Theology, but if I didn’t have a Seminary degree, someone with a 36 hour M.A. from a Seminary would look to many congregations more qualified and more prudent to this discussion be entitled to more salary.

The educational system for Baptists and how it plays out practically in our churches is in very bad need of reform in my opinion.

32 bill May 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I’m sorry, but a MDiv is no where near the difficulty as a PhD.

Also, I know of several ministers who have MDivs with spouses who have advanced degrees who, to a man, have told me that their MDivs were cake compared to the work required for their wives’ degrees.

The one exception is my friend who has a MA (not a MDiv) in Communications from SWBTS before they killed that program.

And that was also before SWBTS opened up the largest Home Econ class in the world…

33 Jeff May 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

The M. Div. used to be called a B.D. (or bachelor of divinity), even though most students had completed a B.A. The M. Div. is different than a M.A. in many other disciplines, because many of the classes are intro-level survey courses where students listen to lectures and take test, as opposed to seminars where students discuss the literature in the field and present papers. Many students who majored in religious studies or biblical studies at a Baptist college said that seminary was a repeat of their college experience, but some SBC seminaries allow those students to take fewer intro courses and take more electives.

In some ways, it is good that the M. Div. is not too difficult. Not everybody who is called to preach is exceptionally smart. Also, many students are serving on staffs of churches. During the last half of my seminary experience, I drove to be pastor of small country church 145 miles from the seminary, and I had to prepare two sermons and visit members and prospects. I was glad that seminary was not too rigorous.

34 BDW May 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Carl,

Here at Baylor a seminary student is required to take 9 hours per semester to have full-time status. A M.A. or M.S. student is required to take 6 hours per semester to be full-time.

Most seminary students enroll in 12 hours per semester (this is what the faculty mentor will advise) Most M.A. or M.S. students in the Graduate School enroll in 9 hours (again, this is what the faculty mentor advises)

I’ve noticed that it’s quite common for a Truett seminary student to take 15 hours. In fact, the seminary students here can take 15 hours without special permission. At the Graduate School, students are required to get departmental approval above 9 hours.

So, like I said earlier, you can’t really compare the two in terms of hours. I’m not sure how M.Div programs at SBC schools are designed. I’m familiar with M.Div programs at other Baptist institutions. I’m sure the design is similar for purposes of accreditation.

That said, the M.Div programs that I’m familiar with are designed for a full-time student to complete in 3 years. Some can do it in 2.5; some take 3.5 or longer. The average liberal arts masters programs (basing this on the many that I investigated just 5 years ago when I was deciding where to study) were 2 year programs. 3 semesters of coursework and one semester for a thesis. I of course understand that some programs, generally in the sciences, that anticipate a person to continue to the doctoral level offer “quick” masters.

I think a M.Div is what it is. A professional degree. But, I don’t think it’s accurate to say, as you did, that a man with a MDiv “has as much education as a Dr. in most fields.”

Jeff: “In some ways, it is good that the M. Div. is not too difficult. Not everybody who is called to preach is exceptionally smart”

And that’s what, it appears that more and more seminaries are offering “multiple tracks” within the MDiv program – a track for those going into specific areas of ministry and a more rigorous research-based track for those planning to pursue a doctorate and enter the academy.

I’ve noticed, however, that fewer students are going the MDiv route prior to pursuing a PHD in Religion. I’ve encountered more students at the doctoral level with either a M.A. or Th.M. degree rather than the M.Div

35 Mark May 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Does anyone else find it odd that MA degrees are often touted as being for layman while the M.Div. is for the professional? Many MA’s have academic tracts that set the student up for a doctorate which, again, seems odd that it would be said to be for layman.

36 Dave Miller May 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Here’s my question. If the average salary is just over 54K, and the total package is nearly 65K, then that leaves 11,000 for benefits. Where you buying your health insurance, guys?

This older pastor’s Guidestone health insurance is well over that amount.

37 Mike Bergman May 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I have a BCBS personal plan and pay ~$100/month… of course I don’t have a family to worry about insurance coverage on right now… don’t have prescription coverage (thank you Wal-Mart $4 on a lot of drugs plan), it’s not worth while to use it for Dr.’s visits, and no other bells and whistles to cover things like my eyes and teeth.

I think I’m covered in the case of decapitation, however…

38 Dave Miller May 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I am no longer insurable, so I am stuck with Guidestone. But my plan was going to over 20,000 per year this year, so I switched to the cheapest junky plan they have got. That still costs about 15k per year.

39 Jared Moore May 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Dave, I pay around $6,000 a year for a bcbs plan; $1,000 deductible; but, it’s $15 copay; and I have dental insurance included in this price. Mine is “cheap” because it’s the same family plan my wife and I have always had. It however will go up, and up, and up over the next several years.

How old are you btw?

40 Frank L. May 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm

“”This older pastor’s . . . ”

Well, Dave! There’s the problem. Getting older.

41 Dave Miller May 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Well, Frank, I don’t know what the options are there. I’ve prepared for the only other one I know, and frankly, my wife would be a wealthy widow. But until then, I am forced to continue getting older and paying more for every form of insurance I have.

42 Dave Miller May 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Knowing that I am worth FAR MORE dead than alive is one more motivation to treat my lovely and talented wife well, though.

43 Doug Hibbard May 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

My lack of life insurance is actually what’s keeping me alive :)

We’re on a BCBS plan that’s about as ineffective as the cheapest Guidestone plan, but since there’s a wider pool and the ability to exclude maternity we’re able to get it cheaper.

Dave, El Presidente is going to take care of your insurance needs soon enough. If you can live that long.

44 Bernie May 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Thankfully by God’s grace and provision we planted our church 3 years ago working a full-time salary a bit above the posted average, which was approved by the core group and leadership with the undestanding that we would be able continue in the biblically based lifestyle we had been called to and had been in coming from my prior chuirch staff ministry position.

I am married with a wife and 3 younger to mid-teen age children which we homeschool. All this is to say is that a church leadership team must be on the same page as to what a pastor’s compensation should be, according to a manner of living which is commensurate with the patterns and principles of scripture.

45 John Fariss May 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm

The average looks about right for where I am, in a suburb of Washington. Note however the cost of living, especially housing, is HIGH here. I could do as well on much less in southside Virginia or the areas of NC I have been in (rural eastern & Hickory in the west). At 58, insurance is eating me alive though–Guidestone won’t insure me because I had a heart attack in 2000, even though I am now healthy, work out, hike regularly on the Appalachian Trail, reduced my stress by no longer working with dysfunctional churches , etc. They don’t care. I am insured through my wife’s work by Blue Cross, but this year, all the employees but her left, putting the “Average” age of the pool up at 58, and it will cost comething like $11,000 for just the two of us over 12 months. Oh, excuse me: Guidestone did offer me one policy: it cost $120 a month, has a maximum yearly pay-out of $2000, and may not be renewed after the first year. Wow! That really helped. Did these guys ever hear of the word “ministry”?

John Fariss

46 John From Down Under May 17, 2011 at 3:04 am

You guys should consider moving across the Pacific. Free medicare here and for about $160 a month you can have a decent family plan for ‘extras’ such as optical, dental, physio, chiro and the like.

Most churches will pay a nominal cash component in a pastor’s salary to minimize tax liability in exchange for paid phone, car and other allowances. Most living expenses are absorbed in the ‘package’ so the cash in the hand falls in the lower tax tiers.

47 Lee Roberts May 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Anyone who says a REAL M.Div. from a SBC Seminary (not a diploma mill like Luther Rice, etc.) is EASY is totally crazy. I majored in Biology and Chemistry at a major Texas University and it was very tough, but as a good student I did well overall with a four year avg of 3.44 GPA. At Seminary, while the ‘type’ of class work was different than my BS work, it was LONG, tedious, and hard and grueling! I had to take baby Gereek 2x to get ready for Greek one (I don;t do well in languaages! LOL), so there was another 12 hours for no credit on top of the 88 I needed for M.Div at SWBTS (100 hours total!!!). It took me three years and two summer terms. And I took 21 hours one semester, and 19 another to get out when I did. Most guys are taking four to five years now to get M.Divs. YES, I could have earned a Masters and most of a PhD (if not all!) at the state school I did my undergradwork at with the 100 hours I had at SWBTS! YES, M.Divs are SUPER Tough!! I also earned my D.Min at NOBTS and it was easier than my M.Div.

48 Blake May 20, 2011 at 2:53 am

More interesting statistics would be average pay for our seminary profs, administration and other entity positions.

49 Mark May 20, 2011 at 9:31 am

Blake,

Do you think that what other SBC entity heads and positions are paid should be in-line with what SBC pastors are paid? If so, I can sort of see the logic behind this line of reasoning.

50 Blake May 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

Mark, I didn’t give any reasoning. However, I do think all servants of the church from the rural church bivocational pastor to the President of the convention should be paid alike (not to say they should make exactly the same). I have a hard time believing that the duties of the SBC president, dean of a seminary, or head of NAMB are doing more than $15,000 worth of ministry above a common full time pastor of an average sized church.

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