Multiplication Center

Which Pastor Gets Paid More: Boomer, Gen Xer or Millennial?

March 1, 2016

By Warren Bird

How much does a senior/lead pastor’s age influence salary? I don’t know the answer for ALL pastors, but I do have some stats for larger-church senior/lead pastors. They come from a survey Leadership Network conducted in 2014. These stats do change, and we need your help to find the most current information through the 2016 Large Church Salary, Staff and Budget Survey.

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Let’s use these categories:

  • Builder, ages 71+ (born 1945 or earlier)
  • Boomer, ages 52-70 (born 1946-1964)
  • Gen-Xers, ages 32-51 (born 1965-1984)
  • Older Millennials, ages 25-31 (born 1985-1991)
  • Young Adults, ages 18-24 (born 1992-1998)


I bet you can already guess what we learned: yes, the salaries differ, but it’s largely because of differences associated with age: the older the pastor, typically the larger the church. Of all the variables we analyze, church size is the biggest predictor of salary changes. Thus the bigger the church’s size, the larger the pay, on average. You can measure “size” through either attendance or budget. While those two variables are strongly associated with each other, in reality budget is the stronger predictor.

But let’s push it a bit. Imagine three different churches of 2,000 in weekly worship attendance. One is led by a 40-year-old, another by a 50-year-old, and the third by a 60-year old. Do the salaries differ? Yes, the 40-year-old is lowest, and the 50-year-old is 14% higher. That’s actually the highest of the three pastors. The 60-year-old is only 13% higher than the 40-year-old. (Regrettably I didn’t have enough data on 30-year-old senior pastors leading 2,000-attendance churches to create a comparison including them.)

The average U.S. Protestant church of 2,000 in attendance has a total annual budget of $3.7 million, so let’s make the same comparison by controlling for budget. Do the salaries differ? Again they do, but much less so. Of the three pastors, the 40-year-old with that budget makes the least. The 50-year-old’s salary is 1% higher, and the 60-year-old is almost the same as the 50-year old at 1% higher than the 40-year-old.

I’m interested in YOUR ideas of what makes salaries differ. Please do add comments below.

Also please help me develop more insights like this by taking part in the Leadership Network 2016 Large Church Salary, Staff and Budget Survey at Those who participate get a huge number of benefits, all of which are listed on the opening page of the survey. Please take a look – or pass our survey link to the “salaries and stats person” on your church staff. Thank you.

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