The Average Salary Of A Pastor In America

The average salary of a pastor in America.

Now, remember, most students coming out of Bible college do not become a pastor right away, they usually have to start as a youth pastor, associate pastor, or some other entry level position within the church. Because of this, their salary will be even less than what is listed here.

Typical salary in America for pastors

Today few pastors receive an unreasonably high salary. A reasonable income is based on what would ordinarily be paid for like services by a similar organization under similar circumstances. Most ministers serving in pulpits today are highly trained and well educated. In obedience to God, congregations should pay them what they are worth.

A recent study conducted by The National Association of Church Business Administration points out that the average American pastor with a congregation of 300 people earns a salary of less than $28,000 and that one out of five pastors has to moonlight for supplemental income. The study also indicated that only 5 percent of American pastors earn more than $50,000 a year, and 14 percent earn less than $25,000.

So I would just like to say to those that lump all pastors into the category of the very small minority of fat cat preachers, "put a sock in it!"

A responsibility of the church

The Word of God is specific when it says that laborers are worthy of their hire. This means that churches should give the maximum amount of support to their pastors, without jeopardizing the overall financial stability of the church. Pastoral compensation is a two-edged sword: pastors should be paid what they are worth, but the ministers should be worth what they are paid. Income paid to pastors should be fair and a reasonable indication of the congregations’ evaluation of the pastors’ worth. Yet, it should also relate to the responsibilities, the size of the congregation, the economic level of the locale, and the experience of the pastor.

A good rule of thumb to determine how much salary pastors should receive is either to pay them the same salary as the average wage of the church ruling board, the average estimated wage of the families in the congregation, or base the salary on a proposed budget presented by the pastor to the appropriate financial authorities for their consideration.

An annual review of a pastor’s pay is vital, and the pastor should know exactly what to expect from the congregation during the coming year.

The high cost of Christian education.

I then did some more digging. I went to my own Alma mater, Life Pacific College and downloaded their current Academic Catalog to see what the cost of a Christian education would cost today. I was honestly shocked. To get a 4 year undergraduate degree would cost $84,000 dollars when you put tuition costs, room and board, and books together. It would cost another $42,000 dollars to continue on to get a masters degree. Now how can a student coming out of Bible college pay off a student loan, get married, have a place to live and a car to drive making on average $2,000 per month before taxes starting out? How many of you would pay over $100,000 dollars to work in a job that pays less an assistant manager at McDonalds?

This is a problem that the church has to address. The church has to ask itself if whether or not it wants it brightest and best to fill our pulpits or do we want to make it so that they financially cannot justify pursuing a career in ministry? Now I am not, nor have I ever been a proponent of the prosperity gospel or the extravagant and opulent lifestyles the very small minority of pastors in this nation, but I am also dead set against the mentality that would say “we will keep them poor Lord, so you can keep them humble.”

Local churches need to consider helping the students they send off to Bible college with funds to offset their tuition. Church leadership needs to reevaluate how they set pastoral compensation and no pastor should be paid less than the lowest salary earned by church board members unless it just is not economically feasible. Church members should be educated in what goes into training a pastor and what the job description entails beyond the presentation of the Sunday morning message.

An Example Of Reality

To give you an example, just recently I was asked to walk a family through the death of their mother. I visited her at the hospital that was 45 miles away, spent time with the family, performed the funeral at the funeral home 90 miles away, and did the internment service that was another 75 miles further from the funeral home in 112 degree heat. Overall I spent over 25 hours serving this family. Now I don’t mind, and I am not complaining, but the hourly compensation for that was? $4.00 per hour. It barely paid for the gas. I do it gladly. I would do it for free and I never ask for compensation for weddings and funerals and the such. I am just using this as an example to educate all of you on what reality is vs. what some ninny, spouting out their opinions on pastors and money, thinks they know.

I pastor a small church. They are unable to pay me even an average salary. That is okay. I knew that when I came. I moonlight by providing my website called Taber's Truths. It pays for itself and has a little left over but nothing to brag about.

So the next time you are tempted to complain about preachers and money, the next time you get your feathers ruffled at your pastor because he didn’t shake your hand right or changed something in your church, remember, your pastor chose to be a servant at the expense of forsaking many things you take for granted in your job, like health insurance and a new car.


Pastor Duke

This post is an excerpt from an article I did on my website concerning Christian colleges helping students repay loans.

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