6 Surprises About Church Staff Salaries and Budgets

The new research on church staff salaries and budgets is amazing.

I have been poring over the data of the study recently released by Leadership Network and Vanderbloemen Search Group. It is rich with helpful information.

As I read the study, I looked for surprises or changes in patterns from what I have been seeing in recent years. And though the data I've collected in the past may not compare perfectly with the research of this latest study, the contrasts are, at the very least, instructional and interesting.

Here are six of those surprises or changes:

1. Growing churches pay their pastors and staff slightly less than declining churches.

At first glance, this information seems surprising. But growing churches often reach new Christians who have not established healthy giving patterns. Other growing churches may be more likely to reach younger families with lower incomes.

2. Only two percent of the churches' budgets are funded outside congregational giving.

Some churches receive funds from leasing facilities, from schools that are in the church's building, or from investments and endowments. But, in reality, those sources of income are very small compared to congregational giving.

3. One third of the churches increased the outsourcing of staff over the past five years. 

As I have noted in other articles, outsourcing is a major trend in churches. Leaders are increasingly becoming aware that many typical employee functions are not part of the core that makes a church unique. Here are some of the more common church staff outsourcing I have found with an example of each:

Administrative assistants/secretaries (EAHelp)

Bookkeepers/financial assistants (MAG Bookkeeping)

Web support/webmasters (Render)

Ongoing writing and publications (Ellipsis)

4. Overall church staffing costs have declined to 49 percent of the budget. 

To be clear, the number of 49% comes from the Leadership Network/Vanderbloemen Search Group research. I am comparing that to my own earlier data that shows church staffing costs to be 54% of budget. It would appear that overall church staffing costs are declining. I would surmise that much of that decline is coming from efficiencies gained from outsourcing.

5. The attendance-to-staff ratio is 76:1. 

For every 76 persons in average worship attendance, churches have the equivalent of one full-time staff person. Those numbers count all staff, including pastors, assistants, custodians, and others. It does not include school staff if the church has or sponsors a school.

6. About 81 percent of churches limit visibility of specific salaries to a board, a subcommittee, or senior staff. 

This perspective seems to be a major shift from the days of all church members pouring over every dollar given to every staff person for salaries, benefits, and expense reimbursements.

Originally posted at

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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