How do you figure out church compensation for pastors and paid staff? We’ve put this church salary guide together because we know this is a tough issue to tackle. Determining a fair total salary and what benefits to include can even be controversial.
As you’re considering all church staff positions from your senior pastor to your operations director, you might be asking yourself: what should their salaries be? How do pastors get paid? While part of this will ultimately depend on your church’s budget, paying your staff fairly is vital to keeping the best employees.
If you don’t have a clue where to start or you’re re-evaluating your church’s compensation plan, read on to learn more with this church salary guide.
Looking for more information on pastor compensation? We recently published a new post all about pastor salaries. Pastor Salary Guide: How to Pay Your Pastor Right
Table of contents
- Why You Need Paid Church Staff
- Common Issues With a Low Church Staff Salary
- Understanding Types Of Compensation in Churches
- Why Does Church Compensation Vary So Much?
- Common Church Staff Salary Breakdown
- Should Churches Consider Outsourcing?
- Common Mistakes Churches Make With Salaries
- Changing Your Church’s Compensation Strategy
Why You Need Paid Church Staff
Unlike volunteers, your church staff is fully dedicated to helping your church succeed. Yes, volunteers do what they can, when they can, but you don’t count on them in the same way as you do your paid staff and full time ministers.
Think of it as the difference between volunteer interns and full-time employees in a business setting. Your primary staff members are tasked with the most important responsibilities. And ensuring the most significant tasks are done consistently will ultimately depend on your best employees.
When it comes to running the church, the hardest tasks are usually reserved for full-time employees. This includes the pastor of course! Your full-time church staff is responsible for weekend services, healthy financial stewardship, administrative tasks, building maintenance, caring for the church membership, and so much more. With all of that responsibility, it’s important to determine fair compensation and benefits.
Obviously, you may not pay every person who works in your church. For instance, you might have a few members who are copywriters who volunteer to write weekly blog posts. Or members with website builder experience who help update your church website. Giving their time and talent to support weekend services may be how they hope to serve the church.
Despite your best intentions, it’s difficult to determine how to run a church on volunteers alone. Especially for your lead pastor who may be giving 40 hours a week to ministry. What happens if a volunteer suddenly stops helping out or moves away? Most of the time with paid staff, you have more stability and a process to replace church staff.
Would you run a business on volunteers only? Not likely. You’d hire the best employees possible to given your payscale to help you build and grow a thriving business. These people give their all and deserve fair compensation in return. The hard part is figuring out what a fair salary is, especially if you’re a smaller church.
While you don’t always need a huge paid staff, you do need to determine fair pay for the church staff you have. Paying everyone fairly for what they do goes a long way towards boosting employee morale. As everyone knows, happy workers are more productive and positive. In a church environment, this means creating a winning atmosphere that cares well for church staff and volunteer workers.
Common Issues With a Low Church Staff Salary
Clearly, it’s important to determine fair pay for your church staff. But let’s be sure we understand the consequences when you underpay them. Don’t feel bad. You might not even realize you’re underpaying. Or it could be a budget constraint.
While your staff will understand lower salaries when they’re working for a small church that’s struggling to grow and make ends meet, they won’t be as understanding if you’re a thriving church with an organization that’s constantly growing.
Common obstacles that come from lower church worker salary
- Low morale
- Interpersonal conflict (especially if the payscale is unevenly distributed)
- Lack of accountability
- Loss of your best employees
- Negative attitudes that affect church culture
- Lack of availability when you need them most
These are just some of the consequences that arise when your staff find out they’re not getting fair compensation or you’re paying them far less than the standard for a church of your size. The last thing you want is for them to be so stressed about their personal finances that they can’t do
The good news is, there are ways to boost your budget to allow for better salaries for church leaders. But, more on that later on.
Understanding Types Of Compensation in Churches
Most of the time, a church salary guide just supplies an overall total salary, but it may not go into details on what’s included in that compensation package. Church compensation isn’t just a weekly or monthly pay check. Instead, it’s a total of regular pay and benefits.
Common types of benefits included in the overall salary
In addition to regular pay, most churches offer healthy insurance and other yearly benefits. Benefits are crucial for compensating your staff fairly.
- Vacation time
- Retirement, such as 401(k)
- Housing benefits or Pastors Housing Allowance
- Dental and Health insurance
All of these benefits have a monetary value. For instance, you might pay a staff member $30,000, but include $10,000 of yearly benefits for a total salary of $40,000 per year.
Often times, better benefits will make employees accept a slightly lower salary. For instance, offering vacation time doesn’t cost your church as much as a regular salary as your staff can come together to cover another employee’s position for a few days or a week.
Why Does Church Compensation Vary So Much?
So, your church is in a small town that no one even knows exists. How could you possibly pay the same type of salary as a church in Los Angeles? You can’t.
Average pay is just that – average. Before you even look at the average salary for different positions, it’s important to understand the factors that go into determining what a staff member should make.
Top Salary Considerations
One of the top considerations is the cost of living in your specific area. A rural church is typically in an area with a lower cost of living than a church in a major city. This can change the annual salary by $10,000 or more.
Other Salary Considerations
- Education level
- Type of responsibilities
- Amount of time needed
- Your overall church budget
- Average attendance
- In-church tithing and online tithing
As you can see, all of these factors drastically change how much a person is paid. A tiny church with 100 members won’t be able to pay the same salaries or even have as many employees as a mega church with thousands of members. Or a church located in a major city. That’s okay. You just have to determine the right church compensation and salary for your church.
Just remember, always re-evaluate salaries as your church grows. A bigger church means more responsibilities and the need for higher pay.
Common Church Staff Salary Breakdown
Now for the main event – the average church staff salary breakdown. Remember, these are averages and not the exact amount you have to pay anyone.
- 1 to 150 members – $35,494 to $67,221
- 150 to 300 members – $75,624 to $83,533
- 300 to 500 members – $96,656
- 501 to 999 members – $120,485
- Over 1,000 members – $162,761
- Up to 500 members – $54,055 to $94,756
- 501 to 1,200 members – $66,234 to $96,966
- Over 1,200 members – $84,325 to $135,065
- Up to 500 members – $45,999 to $62,745
- 501 to 1,200 members – $52,909 to $83,975
- Over 1,200 members – $54,022 to $92,291
- Up to 500 members – $35,088 to $62,859
- 501 to 1,200 members – $45,956 to $64,641
- Over 1,200 members – $47,423 to $75,365
- Up to 500 members – $33,972 to $58,623
- 501 to 1,200 members – $42,840 to $70,220
- Over 1,200 members – $48,915 to $79,900
Payscale lists the overall Christian worker salary as $
For further guidance on helping you plan your staffing budget and determining overall Christian worker salary standards, try Guidestone’s church compensation guides and templates for financial planning. This is a great resource for helping you determine what salaries work best for your needs, your staff and your budget.
As you might have noticed, the salaries reported by churches are often limited to pastors. However, you likely have a numerous other positions in operations, finance, maintenance, and administrative support.
Sometimes, the other tasks you need done can be outsourced for much less than a full-time salary. Plus, with outsourcing, you don’t have to supply about benefits.
Should Churches Consider Outsourcing?
Your pastors can handle some administrative work, but not everything. After all, that’s not always their skill set. Plus, your pastors are probably already overwhelmed with the vital tasks required of their job position like preaching, teaching, and ministering to people. Allowing pastors to have more time for what truly matters is what helps set a church apart and increase membership.
This is where outsourcing helps. You can hire people with specific skills to handle certain tasks. They may only work a few hours a week and that’s enough to get the job done.
Examples of Outsourcing or Contract Workers
For instance, you could hire a dedicated person and pay a full-time salary for them to handle website maintenance. However, you don’t really need a full-time person for this. We previously talked about ways to make this task easier and one of our recommendations was to outsource to save money and ensure you don’t miss anything.
Often, outsourced administrative support positions are referred to as virtual assistants. They can handle everything from accounting to uploading content on your website. You may hire several different virtual assistants based on skillset and that’s okay. Odds are, you’ll still pay less than a single salary for an entire year.
Go ahead and explore outsourcing for the tasks you need skilled talent for, but don’t have the budget or need for full-time staff. This is a great alternative to volunteers for tasks that you need regular, dedicated support. Remember when outsourcing, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. A middle of the road price typically offers the best of both quality and price.
Common Mistakes Churches Make With Salaries
Paying your church staff a fair overall salary isn’t always the problem. It’s how and what you pay them that makes or breaks the situation. For instance
- When was the last time you gave your staff a raise?
- Do you do performance reviews?
- What about annual incentives?
Even with the best intentions, you could be making mistakes that hurt your staff and church in the long run. That’s why it’s vital to determine fair pay!
Thom Rainer broke down some interesting findings on church salaries, such as:
- Growing churches pay their staff less than declining churches
- There’s a 76:1 ratio when it comes to members to staff
- Staffing budgets have decreased to 49% of the overall budget
The first point is an obvious problem, yet not surprising. After all, you might pay staff more in the hopes they’ll draw in more members in a declining church. However, a growing church should be paying their staff more as their budget increases.
Often times, having too few staff in relation to number of members is overwhelming and can lead to burnout. This, of course, is another reason to outsource some tasks and make it easier for your staff to minister to your members and community.
Now, the last point isn’t so bad. Most of that is coming from an increase in outsourcing. That just means fewer people have to split that 49%.
Some of the worst salary mistakes churches make
- Poorly planned incentives, such as a set amount per new volunteer or member (the right incentives do make a difference, though)
- Paying one person exorbitantly more than someone with similar responsibilities
- Hiring more people than you can afford and paying everyone less as a result
- Rarely giving any type of raise
- Not explaining your church budget to staff (helps them understand why they’re paid what they are)
- Not taking salary concerns seriously when someone does complain
- Trying to replace your core staff with volunteers to save money
Most of these mistakes happen as a way to either keep someone truly special or to save money. However, these mistakes have a way of backfiring and wreaking havoc on your church’s budget. Healthy financial stewardship is vital in the long run!
Changing Your Church’s Compensation Strategy
If you feel like you’re under or even overpaying your staff, or you’re making some of the mistakes above, it might be time to overhaul your church’s compensation strategy.
Smart Church Management provides guidance on creating a basic strategy and for establishing final salaries. These guides work well for helping you get started on a brand new strategy.
Part of your strategy should include ways to boost your budget so you can pay fairer wages. Some great ideas include:
- Limit your staff to what you need (a small church won’t need the same staffing structure as a larger church)
- Ask for volunteers for certain tasks, such as blogging, monitoring social media and community outreach
- Outsource when possible
- Have strategy to increase online giving
- Focus on retaining your members versus just bringing in new ones (engaged members help bring in new members on their own)
- Eliminate unnecessary programs to put your budget towards more successful and well-received programs
Remember that no matter what your strategy is right now, it’s important to review it annually. As your church changes, so do your salary needs. From your lead pastor to your youth pastor, and everyone else on your church staff, be sure to review salaries yearly and offer raises when possible, even if it’s just 1%.
Your staff will appreciate it, even if it’s still below average. This is especially true if you share your budget and let them know that you’re trying your best.
Are you looking to outsource your church website design? Contact our team today to learn how we can help.