If you are here for this article then you more than likely fall into one of three categories: You are someone actively pursuing a career path in a pastoral leadership position and are looking into the pastor salary scale of a full-time pastor, someone interested in ministry searching around doing research, or someone who happened upon this article by chance.
No matter what category you fall into, you are welcome to this article and its resources. However, before we dive into the breakdown of church staff salaries, I would encourage and challenge you to stop here for a moment and ask yourself some questions. If you’re seeking a pastoral leadership position, do you believe this to be your calling, or is this something you see as an “easy” job to make a decent amount of money? If you happen to be on the latter half of this question, then let me be the first to tell you pastoral leadership is not for the faint of heart and you will not be successful if this is not your God-given calling.
For those of you who believe this to be your calling and are doing some research first and for those who know this is your calling, then this article is for you. Before we move onto the overview of what you can expect, let’s take a moment and see what scripture says about church salary.
The Bible does not explicitly come out and say, “This is the exact salary a senior pastor should make” or “Here’s a guide to what each pastoral role salary should be”. However, in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 in the ESV version, it says, “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” Paul speaks into pastoral leadership “salary” simple saying that those who preach should be compensated as such.
Being a senior pastor is a full-time job. Being a youth pastor is a full-time job. Being a worship pastor is a full-time job and so on. Each church role is a full-time job with different responsibilities (which will be talked about in a future article) and therefore should be compensated. However, being a senior pastor or youth pastor or any other pastoral position should not be about the money. With that being said, let’s move on.
What you can expect from this article is a breakdown into the pastor salary scale, how much different pastoral roles make, and the factors and other circumstances that can change the pastor pay scale.
Now, it should be of note, that it is not exactly easy to provide a set and distinct salary for each specific role in a church, which we will talk about later in this article, but we have pulled resources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other resources such as Lifeway and Pushpay to present you a breakdown of a pastor pay scale based on position, site location, and attendance and also a general range of salary for each full-time position. The positions we will be running through are: Senior pastor, Executive pastor, Family pastor, Discipleship pastor, Worship pastor, Youth pastor, and the Children’s pastor/director positions.
Average church staffing pay in general
To start off we will be looking into the average church staffing pay in general based on BLS data. Now the BLS only give very general information. They don’t have any kind of differentiation between different church roles and their full-time salaries and the most specific category that they have for church staff is “Clergy” and “Religious Organization”
Employment - 50,790
Mean Hourly Wage - $27.51
Mean Annual Wage - $57,230
Employment - 22,750
Mean Hourly Wage - $26.77
Annual Wage Mean - $55,680
Based on these numbers, as a church staffing member, you can expect a general full-time pastoral salary to be around $56,000. However, this salary will change drastically based on some differing circumstances which we will be talking about next
Factors that change the pastor pay scale
There are three main factors that change the pastor pay scale which are: Church attendance and size, church site location, and specific role. All three of these factors are pretty cut and dry and do not require a whole lot of explanation but I will briefly talk about each
Church Attendance and Size
The first main factor that will affect the pastor pay scale is the size of the church and the attendance of the congregation of a church. It goes without saying that a church mainly relies on tithe as their main source of income as churches are essentially non-profit organizations that don’t distribute products or services for money like most businesses do. The size of a church and the amount of people in attendance usually go together. Churches almost always start small and then grow as they have more people attend. You wouldn’t have a church that can hold 1,000 people if they on average have 50 in attendance.
Obviously, as a churches attendance grows and the size of the church grows, you can usually expect for tithe to grow as well meaning that the church is bringing in more money and therefore has more money to pay its staff.
This factor is a little bit more complex than the previous one and in order to provide a rough example of how location can affect salary we’ve gone to the U.S. Department of State which offers a slew of resources for looking into cost of living of different cities. Specifically, for this example, we will be using the general full-time pastoral pay mentioned above of $56,000 and we will also be looking at bankrate.com which has a cost-of-living comparison calculator, and I’ve also chosen two random cities to look at here. Let me paint this hypothetical situation for you. Say you live in Charlottesville Virginia and are looking to take on a full-time pastoral position in Amarillo Texas and for the sake of this example, let say that you are currently a full-time pastor making $56,000 a year in Charlottesville. According to the calculator on bankrate.com, Amarillo Texas has a cost of living that is 17.07% lower than Charlottesville and in order to live within the same means, you would be making around $46,441.66 salary wise.
You might be asking well what does this example mean? Essentially this example shows that cost of living is going to influence salary. You may be making $56,000 now but that will change depending on the area. If the area is cheaper to live in meaning essentials like food, shelter, and gas are all cheap, the pay will reflect that. This goes both ways and in areas where those things are more expensive, you are more likely to see an increase in pay to reflect the price.
Another good resource to look at how church site location can affect the pastor pay scale is through LifeWay’s compensation study they conducted in 2018. On their compensation report you can run reports of their data on some specific roles in the church such as a full-time senior pastor, interim pastor, office personnel, and custodial staff. I specifically looked at the full-time senior pastor pay in California, one of the highest cost of living states, and compared the pay of a full-time senior pastor in Mississippi, one of the lowest cost of living states. I also specifically looked at congregations with attendance between 300-499 people to simulate a medium sized church. In California, the average pay of a full-time senior pastor with 300-499 people in attendance was $111,695 compared to Mississippi which was $91,732 showing an almost $20,000 salary difference.
Finally, we have the factor of specific role which is the simplest factor to explain. It all comes down to the responsibilities of each role. The higher up leadership positions such as the senior pastor and executive pastor positions which require years of experience will typically be paid more than say a youth pastor or worship pastor which are seen as more entry-level positions in the church. Especially when it comes to the senior pastor, as they are the leader of the church as whole and their role and responsibilities reflect that, so should their pay.
The data for this next section comes mainly from Pushpay which is a management system used by non-profits and churches to collect donations and tithes online. Specifically, we will be using Pushpay’s 2019 Church Staff Salary Guide.
Now that we have gone through looking at what a church staffer makes generally and started to establish the pastor pay scale by looking into different factors that would affect a full-time pastor’s pay, we can move onto looking more closely at a solid salary range for each of the major church positions.
Average church staff pay by role
Full-time Senior Pastor salary range
0-500 in attendance: $68,951 - $156,217
501-1,200 in attendance: $84,270 - $184,025
1,200+ in attendance: $92,255 - $189,053
Full-time Executive Pastor salary range
0-500 in attendance: $54,055 - $94,756
501-1,200 in attendance: $66,234 - $96,966
1,200+ in attendance: $84,325 - $135,065
Full-time Discipleship Pastor salary range
0-500 in attendance: $47,538 - $73,535
501-1,200 in attendance: $52,515 - $76,912
1,200+ in attendance: $59,672 - $82,972
Full-time Family Pastor salary range
0-500 in attendance: $38,433 - $59,352
501-1,200 in attendance: $52,759 - $75,510
1,200+ in attendance: $57,466 - $83,885
Full-time Worship Pastor salary range
0-500 in attendance: $45,999 - $62,745
501-1,200 in attendance: $52,909 - $83,975
1,200+ in attendance: $54,022 - $92,291
Full-time Youth Pastor salary range
0-500 in attendance: $35,088 - $62,859
501-1,200 in attendance: $45,596 - $64,641
1,200+ in attendance: $47,423 - $75,365
Full-time Children’s Pastor/Director salary range
0-500 in attendance: $33,972 - $58,623
501-1,200 in attendance: $42,840 - $70,220
1,200+ in attendance: $48,915 - $79,900
We’ve looked at a lot of information here in this article so let me give one final breakdown for you to summarize what we’ve learned. If you are interested in becoming an employee for a church organization in a pastoral leadership position whether you are looking to try your hand at an upper leadership position such as a senior pastor position or an executive pastor position or if you’re looking into your first job at a church as a youth pastor or worship pastor here is roughly what you can expect salary wise in three main points.
A general but not totally accurate pastor pay scale you can expect is around $56,000 a year as we’ve discussed above. Keep in mind that this isn’t a completely accurate number due to the three factors we talked about in this article and as such this shouldn’t be the number you set your mind on completely, but it is still here for you.
Factors that Affect the Pastor Pay Scale
The three factors that affect the pastor pay scale are as previously mentioned: Church size and attendance, church site location, and specific church role. Each of these factors will drastically affect the salary ranges for each role due to things like tithe amount (size and attendance), cost-of-living of your area (church site location), and role responsibilities (specific roles). Pay will vary based on these three factors and it is important to keep these in mind for when you go to apply for any position for any church in any state.
Each Church Does It Differently
My final words on wisdom I will impart to you in this article is each church does it differently. It is important to keep this in mind as you’re beginning to conduct your job search for whatever position you may be looking for. When it comes down to it no one church is going to be the same in their approach to salaries. Some churches have different hierarchies, some churches only have a few pastoral positions, some churches only have one pastor with the other leaders comprising of deacons and elders. It simply just depends on whatever style the church you’re looking at working for follows and what their view is on salary. So, when you get to the interview or start to get in contact with the church you are interested in working at, it doesn’t hurt to ask them what their style is.
I hope that this article has been of service to those of you who took the time to read it and I hope that this has given you a general idea of what to expect when it comes to how much a senior pastor makes and how much a youth pastor makes and so on. To end out this article I would like to share Ecclesiastes 5:10 in the ESV version which says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this is also vanity.” Do not get caught up in the numbers or the salaries but pursue the riches of the one true God who provides for anything and everything we need. Trust in him and him alone and use what He has given you (spiritually, physically, and financially) to give back to Him for His glory.