Survey Reveals Which Pastors Get Paid Most

Presbyterian senior pastors have a higher salary than those of any other denomination, a new survey showed.

The average salary for the head pastor in Presbyterian churches was $78,000 (plus housing/parsonage), according to Christianity Today's latest church salary survey. Baptist senior pastors earned next to last with $67,000.

The survey found that Presbyterian churches have the highest-reported church income among churches with senior pastors, and some of that income goes to the head behind the pulpit.

Notably, however, while Baptist and Presbyterian churches that have youth pastors generate virtually identical church income, Baptist youth pastors earned near the top with a salary plus housing of $44,000 while Presbyterian youth pastors earned only $36,000.

"Apparently, though, Baptist churches value youth ministry more, because they pay their youth pastors 20 percent more," according to Christianity Today.

Another surprising finding showed that female solo pastors earn more than their male counterparts. Although only 6 percent of survey respondents who identified themselves as solo pastors were women, they reported 10.4 percent higher total compensation and their average salary was 8.6 percent higher than men's ($49,219 compared to $45,259). Total compensation, which includes health insurance, retirement and continuing education, for women was $62,472 while that of men was $56,558.

Kevin Miller, executive vice-president and publisher of Christianity Today International, said the explanation for the salary difference is likely to be regional. Solo pastors receive the highest pay in the New England and Pacific states, considering the higher cost of living, Miller noted. "And these regions probably have the greatest cultural acceptance of women serving as solo pastors."

Nevertheless, the survey showed the still-prevalent cultural practice of paying women less than men. Besides solo pastors and secretaries, women were paid less than men in every other church position. Men earned about 30 percent more than women. Among senior pastors, men earned an average of $81,432 (salary plus benefits) while women earned only $66,218. Also, male custodian/maintenance workers earned an average of $36,057 compared to the $26,175 annual compensation for their female counterparts.

On another note, the survey found that the higher education a pastor has, the higher salary he or she earns. An additional college degree earns a pastor $7,000 to $15,000 more per year. Pastors with a bachelor's degree get a 10 percent boost in income and those with a master's degree get a 20 percent increase. And a doctorate degree results in an additional 15 percent boost.

The 2008 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, which releases this month, provides church employee compensation breakdowns for part-time, full-time, church size, income budget, and geographical setting. The report is based on research among nearly 2,100 American churches. It presents data on 13 church positions based on research among nearly 2,100 American churches that were surveyed between January 2007 and May 2007.

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