LifeWay, Guidestone, and the state conventions do a compensation study of SBC pastors and staff. The numbers in it come from self-reporting by churches and church staff. Here’s the way Baptist Press reported the 2022 results:
It’s a good article. Read it. Here’s another way to look at the pay of SBC Senior Pastors who are the largest respondents to the survey:
Average SBC Senior Pastor pay package approaches $100,000
That’s right, brethren (and there are no sistren who are SBC senior pastors) – The average pay for Senior Pastors is over $90k, $91,042 to be precise. I take a liberal approach to blogging and numbers and say that the Senior/Lead/Big Dog pastors in our beloved denomination are approaching six figures in income.
[The “Pay Package” as LifeWay/Guidestone defines it includes “Salary + Housing Allowance + Fair Rental Value of Church-owned Housing + Utilities on Church-owned Housing + Social Security Equivalent + Retirement Benefits Paid by the Church + Insurance Paid by the Church.” A note on this definition. If you have a professional expense reimbursement account with your church where you put all your auto expenses (the IRS maximum allowable is 62.5 cents per mile) then that significant number is not included at all in your pay package, so the average is probably closer to $100k than shown. The definitions are confusing, since the study lists the Social Security Equivalent and then explains that it is not in the SALARY figure, but benefits. Either way, it’s in there in the numbers. I don’t know many churches that do a SSE.]
A few takeaways from pastor pay:
- Use the overall average with your church if it will help you but the average for the Senior Pastor of the average sized SBC church is about $78,000. The average for the median sized SBC church is even lower than that, about $70,000. The large churches and megachurches skew the numbers. That’s OK.
- Pastors, as the article linked above shows, have lost ground in pay since 2018. Significant inflation, something we haven’t seen in decades, is eating up pastor (and most everyone else) pay.
- The poor pastor still in a church-owned house, sadly, has his pay inflated by Lifeway/Guidestone adding in the fair rental value of the humble abode that he doesn’t own and for which he pays SECA taxes. That’s the killer.
- Drilling down into the study, some SBC pastor reported a package of over a million dollars, and for a church of 300-499 in attendance. Wait, there’s more. Some pastor of a church where attendance is 25-49 got a $350,000 package. Must have an oil well or gold mine in the church yard. Covetousness, I remind my colleagues, is one of the ‘thou shalt nots’ of the Ten Commandments.
If we are in for some years of significant inflation, pastors will get hammered.
It’s my experience that very few churches will give their pastor (and staff) an inflationary raise at all, much less one of 8 or 9 percent which is where annual inflation is right now. And if they do, they may not raise the pastor’s retirement contribution, which they should.
Yeah, I get it. Churches aren’t growing. Church income isn’t growing in many cases. Average member giving is declining. So, maybe churches can’t afford that inflationary raise. The pastor and his family will eventually suffer for it. That’s reality.
A few observations on pastors, inflation, and compensation:
- I’ve known of pastors who refused pay raises. Bad idea. Dumb idea. If the brother is independently wealthy I would understand. If he is not, then it’s almost never a good idea. Let the church do what they want to do for their pastor. He can increase his giving if he wants to.
- It might be a good idea to be a bit more aggressive about informing church leadership (and I’m thinking of average-sized, most single staff churches) about pay, benefits, and inflation. Many pastors have a much more comfortable retirement because they explained things carefully, respectfully, and annually and did have their retirement increased during their working years.
- Alas, the unfortunate reality is that to get a significant pay raise, or to keep up with inflation, the pastor has to move to another church. Is it still the case that churches without a pastor finally find out what the market is in pay for pastors?
- Inflation is a pastor killer because the pastor, especially in his younger years, has more and more expenses (kids and stuff) and his money is worth less and less because of inflation. It affects him, his marriage, his family…everything.
- If I’m a layman in a church and the choice is between paying my pastor, giving him an inflationary or step raise, and giving above average to the Cooperative Program, that’s not a hard choice. I’d rather pay my pastor than pay for state convention staff. Churches have always done both but the church that gives double, triple the SBC CP average (about 4.6% of church undesignated offerings) shouldn’t do it by punishing their staff by keeping their pay low.
God bless and guide you, brethren. Please give this some thought. No one is going to hold your hand and lead you through the intricacies of reimbursements, the clergy housing allowance, and retirement savings. Guidestone has good information available but you have to find, read, and understand it.
Find a key layperson in your church and make sure they understand these things.
Or, you can expand your social media presence and be a highly paid influencer.
Full disclosure: I’m getting a big raise from Biden next year. Social Security is going up by a percentage (I saw 8.3% recently) not seen in scores of years. Thanks, Joe! Maybe I can go to Five Guys and get a small burger, small fries, and small drink…all for under $20! Last time I was in a FG I walked out after ordering and before paying. Ridiculous prices for an average burger joint.