The adjectives in the title have meaning. I’m referring to the thousands of small churches, somewhere around the SBC median of about 70 in average weekly attendance, that have a single clergy staff, the pastor, who is fulltime and not bivocational. My first church, it was in rural South Carolina, was an example of this: around 70 in attendance and I was the only staff member. I was fulltime and not bivocational.
Seventy is the median church size in the SBC.
LifeWay’s latest Compensation Study, 2018, showed churches in the 50-100 attendance range as paying their senior pastor a package (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) of about $56,000. This figure is an average of the two categories used by LifeWay which categorizes responses as 50-74 and 75-99. Almost a thousand self-selected responses were made to the study by churches between 50 and 99 in average attendance.
My judgement, anecdotal, is that the figures in the LCS tend to be on the high side, pastors being paid less than the study averages. I can’t prove it.
The question is: Are these single staff, small churches having difficulty finding a full time pastor? Are they having more difficulty now in retaining a pastor at an average salary?
It is a settled reality that church attendance is declining overall. Is the system where pastors serve in the myriad of small churches, gain experience, and then move to larger churches diminishing? We can’t all be consultants.
I see solid, educated, selfless, dedicated pastors around me who are full time clergy in churches of 40 to 60 in attendance. Is giving by a group this size enough to support a full time pastor adequately? Do members give per capita sufficient to cover a $50,000 or more salary cost by their minister?
Depends, I suppose, on the church.
The SBC is showing declines across the board. We are educating people at a graduate level to serve churches. Where are these graduates going and how realistic is it to visualize decades of full time vocational service in a church with so few in attendance?
Each church that I served came to full time status in the post-WWII years. It was a huge step to move from having a part time pastor, or bivocational pastor, or sharing a pastor with one or more other churches to having their own full time pastor. We’ve had about three generations of this in affluent America, small churches with full time clergy staff. Is this changing?
The Payroll Protection Plan was a boon to many churches large and small. I don’t think the government will take on permanent payroll protection for churches in the future.
Some of our state conventions are providing temporary financial assistance to small churches during this time of crisis. I love the idea behind this, at every level SBC entities serve local churches, but it isn’t a permanent solution.
So, where are we going on all this? I have mostly questions and a paucity of answers on all this. Surely, PhDs have been earned studying the subject. Perhaps I can be informed.
I’m the average church guy at Voices. The others are above average.
I suppose we could all have our own ministries, do some ebooks, have a website with a ‘give’ button, crowd source ourselves and our magnificent independent ministry, tap our family and friends for mission trip funding, try and build an income away from the churches. Oh, we’re already doing that.