What Is Ministry Compensation?

By Warren Bird

I remember visiting a missionary who had a big sign in his work space: “The pay ain’t great but the benefits are out of this world.”

Several years ago we did a “staff satisfaction” report from 34 larger churches. It concluded that the main motivation behind you or me deciding to work for a church or non-profit, and then staying there year after year, is mission:  we believe in what God is doing there, and want to be part of that calling.  Specifically, survey participants gave the top rank to compelling vision and rewarding work.

But what about money? What role does salary play in causing people to say, “This pay level in this position could—or could NOT—work longterm for me (and for my family)”?

One great place to understand more about salary and benefits in larger churches is a report we did titled “12 Salary Trends Every Church Leader Should Know.” You’ll find both a free executive summary and a paid longer, more in-depth version.

Here’s how we look at salary and benefits in that report. In short:  Cash Compensation + Noncash = Overall Total Compensation.

– Cash – Wages, Housing Allowance and Bonuses
– Noncash – Everything else of value paid or given to the employee
(Examples of noncash compensation are health and life insurance, retirement, deferred compensation, auto allowance, club memberships, cell phone, and personal use of church assets of a nominal amount.)

To see these reports and many other related compensation resources, please take a look at leadnet.org/salary.