Average Pastor Salaries in United States Churches

Average Pastor Salaries in United States Churches December 15, 2013

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 Jeffress 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. Jeffress 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.


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

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