Compensation for Full-Time Southern Baptist Pastors and Church Staff Has Fallen Behind Inflation Rate

Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors and church staff has lagged behind growth in the cost-of-living the past two years, and health insurance coverage remains low, according to the 2018 SBC Church Compensation Study.

The biannual study is a joint project of state Baptist conventions, GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources. Compensation and congregational data is collected anonymously from ministers and office/custodial personnel of Southern Baptist churches and church-type missions. The 2018 online survey was open from Feb. 1 to July 6.

According to the 2018 report, Southern Baptist churches spend an average of 51 percent of their budget on personnel expenses. This is the first year this spending was analyzed.

Below Consumer Price Index

Compensation—salary plus housing—increased 3.8 percent for full-time, Southern Baptist senior pastors over the last two years, 1.5 percent for full-time staff ministers and 2.3 percent for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for the same two-year period increased 4.6 percent.

“After a period of very low inflation, the cost of living has moved closer to typical growth in consumer prices,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Churches that are unable to reflect this in their wages will hurt their staff.”

Factors correlating with compensation for senior pastors include weekly church attendance, education level, and total years of experience. Larger churches tend to pay their pastors more, the study shows. For every additional 100 attendees, an otherwise similar pastor’s compensation is on average $3,641 higher.

Higher compensation also is linked to education level. Ministers with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $5,681 more than similarly qualified pastors with no college education or an associate degree. Master’s and doctorate degrees correspond with compensation increases of $5,754 and $10,868, respectively, when compared to college graduates.

Years of experience also netted increased compensation. Pastors earned $358 more for each additional year of experience in ministry. In contrast, each additional year of a pastor’s age compared to an otherwise similar individual is predictive of slightly less compensation by about $500.

“It’s true that you can’t gain another year of experience without also getting one year older. But age and experience have opposite relationships with pastor compensation,” McConnell said.

“When age and other factors are similar, more experience is related to higher pay. When experience and other factors are similar, higher age is related to lower pay. Those who become pastors later in life receive lower pay.”

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Source: Baptist Standard