We offer a lot of helpful information in our free illustrated report entitled, “2010 Large Church Salary and Benefits Report.” It came out last month and I've fielded a number of questions about it. Incidentally, we caught and fixed a few minor typos in the report. Feel free to downloaded it again at the link above.
One of the most interesting questions we received looks at the median of $139,000 for the average senior pastor in a megachurch – generally defined with a weekend attendance of 2,000 and higher – and asks: “Is that high or low compared to other professions?” (The figure for pastors is based on a combined total of cash salary plus any housing allowance, but not the value of benefits).
Actually it's lower than many comparative roles outside the church. For example, looking at median salaries for comparative roles at universities, colleges and professional schools:
– Chief executive such as president, $166,650 (2009)
– Chief academic officer (2008-2009), $158,000
It's also comparable or lower than the top role at many other non-profits, according to Guidestar's national compensation study released in 2010
– For CEOs who headed nonprofits with budgets between $2.5 million and $5 million in fiscal year 2008, their median compensation was $112,639.
– For CEOs who headed nonprofits with budgets between $5 million and $10 million in fiscal year 2008, their median compensation was $137,668.
– For CEOs who headed nonprofits with budgets between $10 million and $25 million in fiscal year 2008, their median compensation was $173,457.
By comparison, a church with attendance of 2,000-2,999 the typical annual median budget (all funds) is $5.7 million. For a church of 10,000-14,999 in attendance, the typical annual median budget (all funds) is $13.5 million.
Some also ask about the comparison to other Protestant pastors in the U.S. Many issues factor into clergy compensation. They include education, denomination, experience, geographic region, church income, and worship attendance. The latter two, which go hand in hand, are by far the more influential. So in most cases larger church pastors receive higher compensation than smaller church pastors. An excellent resource for churches with attendances from “under 100” up to “1,000 or more” is Richard Hammar's 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.
Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 23 books on various aspects of church health and innovation