MINISTERIAL PAY — How Much Is Enough?

By Terry C. Wuske

At one extreme the answer to this often asked question is “Lord, you keep them humble, and we’ll keep them poor.” At the other extreme is the eldership that declared they wanted their senior minister to be the highest paid minister in the state. (According to reliable sources, that eldership didn’t have the same goal for all the other staff members).

How can caring, thoughtful leadership teams establish appropriate compensation practices that express the value they place on their staff? How can they honor God with staff pay, be fair to the entire staff team, and demonstrate sound stewardship of the resources God provides through the congregation?

Many for-profit and not-for-profit companies and organizations in the marketplace have utilized human resource consulting firms like Mercer to research comparable roles and set salary ranges for base compensation. For churches, I believe the “best-in-class” source is the Compensation Survey from the National Association of Church Business Administration. NACBA is an interdenominational, professional, Christian organization that trains, certifies, and provides resources for church administration. The Compensation Survey is available in two formats.

Custom or Standard

The online information is updated in real time as survey participants add or update their compensation information. Users of the online version can view, download, and print custom reports and standard reports.

Custom reports put the user in control of the salary database and enable him to generate reports that include only the data he needs. Custom reports can be sorted by one or several factors, such as denomination/church fellowship, geographic location, budget size, and worship attendance. Custom reports are created using a simple report generation template. Online users who provide survey data are able to create custom reports that compare survey data to their congregation.

Standard reports contain predetermined lists of data. The subscriber can download, save, or print these reports for easy reference.

The NACBA has already made two enhancements to online capabilities and is in the process of a third.

An Annual Resource

The Compensation Survey is also available as a book published annually. In addition to the standard reports, the book version includes helpful articles and forms that the NACBA will eventually download to the online version. These value-added articles include the following:

Ministerial Compensation

Staff Compensation: Does Your Church Have a Plan?

Overtime Pay: Confusing Issues Churches Face

What Should Compensation Include?

Eight Factors in Determining Compensation

Church Staff Compensation Worksheet

A New Approach to Salary Administration: Guidelines for Using NACBA Survey

Some Practical Salary Administration Tips

Special IRS Rules Applicable to Compensation of Church Staff

Church Responsibilities for Employment Taxes & Other Important Documents

Complying with Federal Payroll Tax Reporting

IRS Publications of Interest to Churches and other Religious Organizations

Sample Forms

Checklist for Evaluating Your Church’s Compensation Plan

Data and More Data

The standard survey report in both versions of the NACBA Compensation Survey includes the following information: Job Title (more than 60 titles included), Job Family, Job Description. The survey information is “sliced” in the following ways: years of service, church fellowship or denomination, worship attendance, annual budget size, and five geographic regions. For each of these the number of reporting churches is listed and the average years of tenure is calculated and reported. Then the following are reported: salary and housing, retirement, insurance, self-employment offset, total compensation, and reimbursed expenses. Under each of these data categories the following six figures are reported to assist in forming an appropriate range: low, 25th percentile, mean, median, 75th percentile, and high.

Pricing for the Compensation Survey is determined by whether the customer is a member or nonmember of NACBA and whether the customer is a survey participant or nonparticipant; it ranges from $75 to $150 per year.

The survey as well as other helpful products and services may be ordered by visiting, calling the NACBA at (800) 898-8085, or sending a request by mail to NACBA, 100 North Central Expressway, Suite 914, Richardson, TX 75080-5326. Both the online and book versions of the Compensation Survey provide a competitive edge by listing the most accurate national, regional, state, and local pay information available for churches.



Terry C. Wuske is senior vice president with Church Development Fund, Irvine, California.

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