Church Pastors' Pay Rises to More than $80,000

The average senior pastor in U.S. churches today makes more than $80,000 a year, a recent national survey shows.

Compensation packages, including benefits such as retirement, life insurance, health insurance and continuing education allowances, have increased to $81,113 per year for the average senior pastor. And pastors who hold a higher academic degree are paid up to $30,000 more per year than pastors without any post-secondary education.

The statistics come from the 2009 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, an annual analysis of compensation packages at churches across the country, and at a time when churches begin planning their budget for the next year. This year, 4,800 U.S. churches, representing about 11,000 employees, were surveyed between January and March by the Your Church Media Group at Christianity Today International.

According to the survey, churches that draw 101 to 300 people each week pay senior pastors $72,664 per year, including benefits. The pay increases to $88,502 for pastors at churches that average a weekly attendance of 301 to 500 people, and then to $102,623 when attendance averages 501 to 750 people.

Compensation also increased among executive and administrative pastors who now earn an average of about $60,777 at churches of 101 to 300 people and $76,671 at churches of 501 to 750 people.

Pastors who lead music, choir or worship earn an average of about $51,954 at the smaller churches and $64,781 at the bigger ones.

Senior pastors, full-time secretaries and administrative assistants in the New England states have higher compensation compared to those in other regions, the survey also found.

Compensation is highest in suburban churches with suburban senior pastors making an average of 50 percent more than their rural counterparts. The pay is lower with churches in metropolitan areas, small towns and then in rural communities, respectively.

Meanwhile, executive or administrative pastors, bookkeepers and accountants earn the most in the Pacific region and administrators fare best in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Pay also differed among denominations. Pastors leading in Presbyterian and Lutheran churches earn the most with over $100,000 in compensation while executive and administrative pastors make more on average with independent and nondenominational churches ($80,469) than any other denomination.

The 2009 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff provides a complete analysis of 13 church positions and includes breakdowns for part-time, full-time, church size, income budget, and geographical setting.

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