Big Churches, Big Bucks: Southern Senior Pastors take top Salaries

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Big churches, big bucks: Southern senior pastors take top salaries
(Photo: Leadership Network)
Big churches, big bucks: Southern senior pastors take top salaries
(Photo: Leadership Network)

 

RNS – Large churches in the South tend to pay their senior pastors the highest salaries, a newsurvey finds.

That’s one of the conclusions on churches and finances released Tuesday (Sept. 9) by Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church think tank, and the Vanderbloemen Search Group, a Houston-based executive search firm for churches and ministries. A total of 727 churches in the U.S. and Canada with attendance ranging from 1,000 to more than 30,000 answered questions, more than double the number of congregations featured in previous studies.

The survey found that 14 percent of large churches have a financial bonus structure for their top leader. And one in five of the big congregations find ways to collect their money other than passing the proverbial offering plate.

Warren Bird, research director at Leadership Network, said pastors have long held a lofty place of authority in the South, and that may be why they are paid more in that region.

Northeastern churches are the second-highest paying, followed by the West and the Midwest. The lowest-paying region is Canada.

The higher pastor salaries in the South contrast with lower-than-average wages for the region. The Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports average annual wages of workers in all the states in the Deep South — Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina — are lower than the U.S. annual wage of $49,804.

Although researchers agreed not to divulge specific salaries of particular pastors or the identity of participating churches, they were able to determine trends in these congregations that reflect about one-quarter of the nation’s Protestant worshippers. For example:

  • The larger the church, the more the senior pastor is likely to be paid.
  •  The second-in-command at many churches earns about 70 percent of the salary of the top executive.
  • Three-quarters of the churches gave pay raises between 1 and 5 percent and the most common raise was 3 percent for 2014.

“Bigger means more employees, more volunteers, more moving parts and a greater scope of leadership required,” Bird said. “That reality usually leads to more compensation across a host of organizations.”

In fact, the common pay raise also reflects a wider social trend. Towers Watson, a Virginia-based professional services company, released a separate survey Monday (Sept. 8) that found that U.S. employers plan to give their professional employees an average pay raise of 3 percent in 2015.

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