LifeWay and GuideStone conduct this study of SBC compensation in even numbered years. The latest report came out just a month or so ago. It is helpful and useful. Here are some suggestions for pastors, staff, and church leaders on how it can be profitably used.
Find the LifeWay/Guidestone 2018 Compensation Study and get familiar with it.
If you’re the pastor, and most SBC churches have a single clergy staff, the Mighty, and sometime mighty beloved Senior Pastor, then access the study and get familiar with it. You can see the responses by state, by position, by church budget size, and by church attendance size. For example the senior pastor in Georgia who has an average sized congregation (100-150 is that category) has a salary average of $55k and a package average of about $62k. But there are only 28 responses in this category (by state and this size) so I’d use the overall average for all states. It’s slightly higher.
Get the information to the relevant church committee or group.
Once you are comfortable with the parameters and have looked over the figures, consider how to get this to your personnel committee, deacons, or other church leadership who will be discussing your pay for the coming year. If your pay is below the averages, then pass the figures along dispassionately as useful information, not as a complaint or demand. You know the score here. A bit of diplomacy goes a long way. The best case here is if you have a knowledgable deacon or elder who understands these things. Just point him to the tool and say you will be available to answer questions.
Cover the confusing aspects of clergy compensation.
If asked about housing allowance or automobile expenses, give straightforward answers. Some church members may think you get an extra sum for housing and automobile. It’s wise to explain to a small group that the HA is a part of your salary that is properly set up to adhere to IRS rules on it and that the amount you put in HA is excluded from income tax but not from SECA taxes. If you live in a parsonage the explain that it prevents you from building equity in your own home and you need to find another way to save money for your own house when you retire or move. The LifeWay study includes HA as part of their “salary” figure. Fair rental value of the parsonage is included as well. Read the notes. May I refer to First Plodder, Chapter 1, verse 5? Always be prepared to explain the clergy housing allowance.
Occasionally, someone would comment on my receiving an automobile expense reimbursement. While GuideStone covers the accountable reimbursement plan for clergy elsewhere (and you should have this set up since it allows part of your pay to be free of both income and SECA taxes), if you receive that understand that it’s not accounted for in either the “salary” or “package” sums in the study. You are required to have a car to use for your pastoral duties. Expenses for it (usually the mileage rate, set up in a proper accountable reimbursement fashion) are not income to you.
If asked about your pay, rejoice, and be prepared to give a thorough explanation of averages and clergy pay quirks.
Folks in churches generally don’t know much about how their pastor is paid. They see the numbers but have no basis for comparison, save to what they get paid. If asked about your pay, you can easily say that you are paid about the average, or under, or whatever. When folks ask me what my pastor is paid, I generally answer that he is paid about the average for a church our size.
Get that budget going, brethren. Give ’em the facts. Trust the Lord for the result.
Over the years, I was the least comfortable when the finance committee or deacons would be discussing my salary as a part of the budget process. But, it is likely that no one else other than the pastor is as familiar with clergy pay as you are. Don’t be afraid to do some edumacating with the relevant committee or group in your church. If you don’t who will?
LifeWay and GuideStone do a good service to Southern Baptists with this study.
As an aside, the study shows one church whose budget is under $50k where the pastor’s pay package is $106,000. I’m going to put my resume in there. The highest pay package reported is for the pastor of a church with a budget over $1 million. That guy pulls down about $575,000. Who sez pastoring don’t pay?
I’m not a CPA. I’m a semi-retired hacker and plodder whose task for today is to hit the lake with his kayak. This is general pastoral advice. There are numerous details about all of these compensation matters. Your state convention probably has a guy who can sit down with you (or point you to helpful materials) and analyze your pay package.