Pastor raises barely beat inflation
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
August 19, 2008

Pastor raises barely beat inflation

Pastor raises barely beat inflation
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
August 19, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Inflation didn’t eat away all of the average Southern Baptist pastor’s pay increase over the past two years, but it came close — and churches may have a more difficult time keeping staff members ahead of inflation in 2008.

That’s one finding of the SBC Church Compensation Study, a survey of 12,854 staff positions in Southern Baptist churches. The survey was conducted by LifeWay Research, in cooperation with GuideStone Financial Resources and Baptist state conventions through July 1. The study also found that almost two-thirds of churches are partially or fully paying for their full-time senior pastor to have medical insurance and that compensation can vary significantly depending on geography, worship attendance and the pastor’s experience and education.

All the data acquired by the study has been compiled into a web-based tool that will help churches as they begin planning staff compensation packages for their 2009 budgets.

Adjusting for church size, the average full-time Southern Baptist senior pastor’s compensation (salary and housing) rose 7.26 percent between 2006 and 2008. That rate of change was only slightly higher than the compounded 7.01 percent inflation rate for the same two-year period, according to figures supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor‘s Consumer Price Index.

With no adjustments for church size, compensation for other full-time staff ministers increased 12.24 percent between 2006 and 2008, while compensation for full-time office personnel increased by 9.55 percent and by 9.92 percent for full-time custodians.

Churches partially or fully pay for their full-time senior pastors’ medical insurance 65 percent of the time, the study found. That includes 36 percent that at least partially fund family coverage, 19 percent who at least partially fund coverage for pastor and spouse, and 10 percent who provide coverage only for the pastor.

The research also discovered that 38 percent of those pastors have life and or accident insurance paid for partially or fully by their church, 32 percent have a disability benefit, 27 percent have dental insurance and 12 percent have vision insurance.

Help for smaller-membership churches

These statistics were determined after adjusting the data to account for church size, which indicates that even smaller-membership congregations are trying to take care of their pastors’ needs, said O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources.

“We are pleased to see that two-thirds of SBC churches are offering some level of medical coverage for their ministers and families,” Hawkins said. “What is most rewarding is recognizing the number of smaller churches that understand that this is an important benefit for the overall financial well-being of their ministers.”

Attendance, membership, budget

The study also found several factors significantly affect a full-time Southern Baptist pastor’s compensation, said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

“Average worship attendance accounts for the most variance in pastor salaries — 54 percent,” Stetzer said. “The membership of the congregation is the next most significant factor, accounting for 50 percent of salary variance. Church budget also explains a noticeable amount of variation — 35 percent.”

A valuable planning tool

The data gathered by the SBC Church Compensation Study have been compiled in a web-based tool to help churches as they begin planning salary packages for 2009 — a process that promises to be very challenging in today’s uncertain economic climate.

The web-based tool, which can be found at www.lifeway.com/compensationsurvey, will help churches determine appropriate salaries for their staff members by looking at survey data from churches similar to their own, based on geographical location and church size.

Staff and churches seeking more information related to retirement, life, health, life and disability benefits, salary, and compensation can contact GuideStone at (888) 98-GUIDE or (888) 984-8433, or visit www.guidestone.org.