was successfully added to your cart.


General Interest

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

By March 1, 2016 No Comments

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.

money3 copy





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 www.leadnet.org/salary. 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.

Related Posts

Warren Bird

Author Warren Bird

Warren Bird, Ph.D. has been named a Leadership Network Senior Fellow in light of his exemplary service 2006-2018 as Director of Research and Intellectual Capital Development at Leadership Network. He serves as full-time VP of Research for ECFA.org (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). An ordained minister with background as both a pastor and seminary professor, Warren is an award-winning author or co-author of 31 books for ministry leaders including Hero Maker with Dave Ferguson, How to Break Church Growth Barriers with Carl George, and Next: Pastoral Succession that Works with William Vanderbloemen. Other recent titles are Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work with Jim Tomberlin, and Wisdom from Lyle E. Schaller. Some of Warren’s recent online reports include "Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard," and "The Heartbeat of Rising Influence Churches." See also research reports at leadnet.org/megachurchleadnet.org/salary and leadnet.org/portable. He is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading researchers of megachurches, multisite churches, large church compensation and high-visibility pastoral succession. He also oversees the world's only active, sortable list of global megachurches. Follow him on Twitter @warrenbird.  Click here to subscribe to Leadership Network Advance to get updates from Leadership Network.

More posts by Warren Bird

Your spot has been saved!

You will receive an e-mail shortly with more details about the webinar. Please watch your inbox.