Multiplication Center

What Percentage of a Church Budget Goes to Staffing Costs?

October 15, 2018

In our most recent FREE report “Seven Vital Benchmarks in Church Compensation” (available at this link), the second finding deals with the percentage of church budget that goes to staffing.

In this post I want to elaborate on several Frequently Asked Questions I get in this regard.

First, the overall average was 52% across the 1000 plus churches that responded to the survey. BUT ALWAYS BEWARE OF AVERAGES!

The figure is the total percentage of all dollars expended divided by the total income of the church. Note below for the challenge that creates for some churches.

Previous readers of my posts know that averages generally deceive you because causal readers assign them to be normative. Averages are only one guide when looking at these types of issues. We also provide percentiles for these percentages by church size in the free report. But even those can be deceptive.

Second, notice that across all the church sizes the figure is remarkably consistent at around that number. A few size ranges are higher, and a few are lower. So, for example, the 50th percentile at a church 3000-3999 in attendance is 53%, while the 50th percentile for churches 500-1000 is also right 52% for US churches. There are slight adjustments at churches that are very large, but very little.

Third, the challenge for many churches is they look at total staffing costs = salaries (and perhaps housing), and don’t include other compensation costs such as insurances and other benefits. We attempted in the way we specifically asked questions this time around to get the TOTAL of all dollars that go to supporting staff in the church.

Fourth, the report asked for staff members: “What do you pay them all in?” (or we computed with benefit ratios for those that did not.) We then asked the previous year’s actual 12 month income to compute the figure.

In my experience, some churches look at this in a different way. They look at what they set as a congregationally approved BUDGET of income and expenses instead of actual. For example, the church may have a stated goal BUDGET income of $4,000,000 for the coming year. They then add up all the staffing costs and compare that to the total. For instance, let’s say they set all compensation at $2,000,000 making their staffing percentage 50%.

But then reality hits and that year their income was closer to $3,600,000 instead of the goal of $ 4M. Their actual percentage which makes their actual percentage closer to the 56% range.

To make matters more interesting the church leadership continues to believe and proclaim that they spend no more than 50%. Churches are funny about that sometimes.

In my next post I will state why I think focusing on these figures is a little misleading on the whole anyway. But we get asked this question a lot and did want to provide some insight to your questions.

You can get the FREE overarching report “Seven Vital Benchmarks in Church Compensation” at Also on that page you can learn about our other reports to help your church set compensation at appropriate levels for your team.

If I can help address your questions, feel free to drop me a line at

This article was originally posted in Leadership Network Advance. Not a subscriber? Get access to research, reports, trends, and more by subscribing to Leadership Network Advance here.

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