Average Pastor Salaries in United States Churches

What are the average pastor salaries in the U.S?  Are they comparable to what work a pastor puts in?  Are they below or above other average salaried positions for those with at least a college degree?

The Two Lowest Paid Professionals

It may reveal what we value the most and what we value the least in society as to who are the best paid and who are the worst paid professionals in the U.S.  Of all the degreed professionals in America, the two lowest paid professions are in this order; pastor and teacher.  Some would argue that teachers hold the most important position in society next the parents and so why do they seem to be so severely underpaid?  It is obvious because society values athletes, CEO’s, engineers and other positions of prominence.  It seems that the higher the prestige, the higher the pay.  Is this a reflection on our values as a society?  It may well be because this is similar to the scale in other nations too.  Despite the fact that pastors and teachers put in the longest hours every week and have to continue their education the receive the least in salaries and so it is easy to see why the average pastor only lasts about 10 years now in the profession and that many teachers will change to better paying jobs instead of retiring in their profession. Who could blame them?  Teachers get blamed for much of what is wrong with children these days even though that responsibility lies with and begins with parents.

Pastors who make over a hundred-thousand dollars are the rare exception and they are confined to the mega-churches.

Highest Paid Pastors

It is easy to connect that the largest churches, often called mega-churches, come with mega-salaries.  Just this year Dr. Robert Jefferies stated in a sermon where he went into a clothing store to buy a suit.  The pastor was curious and so asked what the most expensive suit in the place was, knowing full well that he couldn’t afford it.  The man brought back a suit that was tailor made for a pastor of a mega-church that cost $60,000!  Sadly, this same pastor boasted that he could afford it…he drew a $200,000 salary per year…plus expenses.   One pastor of a mega-church drew a salary of just over a quarter of a million dollars.  Dr. Jefferies said that he about fell over and bought a suit that was reasonably priced at about $200.   Pastors who make over a hundred-thousand dollars are the rare exception and they are confined to the mega-churches.

Lowest Paid Pastors

As you might expect, most of the lowest paid pastors are those who have the smallest churches.  Some receive only what is called a pulpit supply fee of about one hundred dollars a week.  They get no benefits like health insurance, car insurance, expenses for clothing or school, and vehicle.  Many have no salary at all and work for nothing (at least on this earth).   Many others are bi-vocational and have to work to support themselves since the church either has no means to support him or they decide that they won’t support him.  The latter is a sad state of affairs indeed and there is little hope of revival in that church.

Average U.S. Pastor Salaries

According to a 2012 in the Christian Post on September 4th, 2012, The Leadership Network stated that the average salary for mega-churches was $147,000 in 2010 but the lowest paid salary was zero!  That is, there are those who have churches that have no money and are so small that the pastor receives no support so the scale starts at the top with about $600,000 with the bottom at $0.   Now, what are the averages and are they increasing as fast as the rest of the population with degrees?  The answer to the latter part of that question is irrevocably and dogmatically no.  Pastor salaries, as are teacher salaries, are not keeping up with others with professional degrees, with a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.   According to the National Association of Church Business Administration, the average pastor in 2012 received an annual salary of $28,000.  One out of five pastors has to work a second job to support himself and his family.  The average pastor’s salary of $28,000 a year is close to that of a teachers’ average salary in the United States which is $42,000 a year.  As I stated before, these are the two lowest paid professionals with degrees in the nation.

Conclusion

A pastor’s real rewards are not for this life but the life to come.   If they only had rewards for this life, they would be most miserable indeed.  Like believers, they work for an imperishable crown (1 Cor 9:25) and not for accolades or applause.  If they did, they would be in the wrong business.  The most valuable thing that they can do is to feed the flock and to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Every one of us will be rewarded according to what we have done on earth and when Jesus returns, He will bring each a reward that has been earned (Rev 22:12).  So my pastoral advice to you, whether you are an under-shepherd like me or a lay member in the church, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design

photo credit: Flickmor via photopin cc

  • momtarkle

    Keep on keepin’ on! Good food, nice clothes, and a nice house for your family are gonna be so good for you and your family in heaven! Praise the lord!

    • Jack Wellman

      Thank you Momtarkle. As I told Mrs. Magana, I myself am a bi-vocational pastor and have to work to support myself since my salary is $100 about every 3 out of 4 Sunday’s and that’s fine by me. I think pastors should be supported but the huge, mega-churches are not biblical that pay pastors huge sums of money. I would rather have 60,000 prayers in my life for His glory that $60 K in a salary for then I might forget my Lord and depend upon my own wealth and trust in it instead of God.

  • Beatriz Magana

    For some time, I thought that if you glorified the Lord and worked for your money, it would be ok to live in luxury. This thought was confirmed some time ago, by a friend who has been a Christian longer than I and she indulges in plastic surgeries, $300+ name brand purses….she justified it by saying that she earns her money by working hard and glorifying God and she tithes. But, the more I read the word, and the more intimate I become with the Lord, I am convicted of this thought. If the Lord blesses us financially, I believe that it is not enough to tithe our 10%, but it is our Christian duty to care for the least of them. Recently, I have had a heavy heart for those who are in third world countries, and I am praying that the Lord provides a way for mission work for my family and I. We are all Christians and are eager to pay off our debt so that we can spread the gospel everywhere. We are not concerned with building wealth, or buying $60,000 suits, but rather our overwhelmed hearts just want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Even if somehow we come into money.

    • Jack Wellman

      Thank you Mrs. Magana. I myself am a bi-vocational pastor and have to work to support myself but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I so agree with you. I would rather have 60,000 prayers in my life for His glory that $60 K in a salary for then I might forget my Lord and depend upon my own wealth and trust in it instead of God.

  • Jose Francisco Rios

    When did any of the apostles in the NT consider personal financial compensation for giving God to others? Many church building groups, when it comes time for the offering prayer talk about how the early church laid everything they had at the apostles feet for the futherance of the gospel. They also say that if we are not giving 10% of our financial resources then we are robbing God and we are being cursed.

    There are a few things that i’ve never been able to grasp biblically I’ve listed two of them below.:

    1. The giant offering that the church gave in the book of Acts was specifically used to preach the good news throughout the world. It wasn’t used for the apostles to buy houses or cars or suits to “further the gospel”. Because that is more important then feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, clothing the naked. All the other apostles had regular jobs or were taken care of supernaturally. So why are pastors of church boxes still getting a paycheck? Yes, I agree that the workman is worthy of his wages. I know that pastors work very hard at keeping their box structure functioning. I also enjoy “going to church”. They have to pay for electricity, cleaning supplies, general maintenance, children’s materials etc… They should all be paid for doing this work. If you had a friend who built a nice box structure and was holding wonderful worship events and was hosting a constant place for believers to gather wouldn’t you want to help them too? I would and still do. But why are we in a building in the first place?

    2. When Yeshua died and rose again the tithe curse was broken. We are no longer under a curse but under grace. Let every one give in joy of spirit and not out of conflicting, wrongly-convicting-thinking. (2 cor 9:6-10)

    If we are called to tithe, and if tithing is a commandment that we must follow, then lets build a physical storehouse and keep the tithe in there (the first fruits of our increase). Then after three years we can open the store house and feed everyone. So why is monetary tithing still taught as a commandment of a Holy God?

    here is a great resource i’ve found:

    http://www.prophetic.net/tithe.htm

    Thanks for reading!

  • Dylan Gorman

    I want to be ordained and have a ministry, but money issues terrify me I must admit.

    The fact I’m not college educated doesn’t help things either.

    • Jack Wellman

      Thank you Mr. Gorman. I understand your concern. More and more pastors are bi-vocational, as I am, but the calling by God to be a pastor is so overwhelming (or at least should be, e.g. Jer 20:9) that it cannot be resisted and money or the lack there of will not keep a man from going into the ministry. God provides for those He ordains. You must trust Him.


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