Barna: Percent of Female Senior Pastors Doubled Over Past 10 Years

The percentage of U.S. Protestant women serving as senior pastors has doubled over the past decade, according to the latest study by the Barna Group.

Throughout most of the 1990s, just five percent of Protestant senior pastors were female. Since that time, the proportion has slowly but steadily risen, doubling to 10 percent in 2009.

The new study "indicates that women have made substantial gains in the past ten years," the Barna Group reported Monday.

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Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the female pastors (58 percent) are affiliated with a mainline church. Among male pastors, less than a quarter (23 percent) is affiliated with a mainline group.

The survey also found that while female pastors are generally more educated than their male counterparts, they typically are compensated with less.

Currently, more three in four female pastors (77 percent) have a seminary degree while less than two-thirds (63 percent) of male pastors reported the same. Still, the average compensation for female pastors in 2009 was found to be $45,300 while the median for male pastors was $48,600.

"As striking as the gap may be, it has diminished somewhat over the last ten years," the Barna Group reported. "[W]hile male pastors have experienced a substantial increase in compensation packages since 1999 – up 21% – female pastors received an even greater jump, growing by 30%. In other words, the difference in compensation has been cut by more than half, from $6,900 per year to about $3,300 annually."

The polling group suggested that one of the reasons for the discrepancy in pay could be the difference in the size of the congregations they lead. Male pastors led congregations that were on average 103-adults-large. Female pastors, meanwhile, led an average of 81 adults on a typical weekend.

Overall, the Barna Group also found that the median number of adults attending Protestant church services during a typical weekend dropped from 108 in 1999 to 101 in 2009.

"Some of that decline is attributable to the increase in the numbers of adults attending other forms of church (such as house churches) as well as a declining percentage of young adults who regularly attend Protestant church services," the organization explained.

For their study, the Barna Group polled a random sample of 603 senior pastors – one less than they had in their 1999 survey.

The range of sampling error associated with each sample of pastors is between ±1.8 and ±4.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

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