2017 Ministers’ Salary Survey
2017 Ministers’ Salary Survey

By Kent Fillinger

In a typical workplace, and in churches, workers don’t publicly discuss salaries and certain benefits they receive. But this trend is changing among millennials. Benefits consultant Mary Ann Sardone recently told the Wall Street Journal, “Pay and promotions are not secretive topics anymore. Companies are spending more time ensuring their pay decisions are fair and highlighting career paths under the assumption that the information is going to be widely shared.”

Recent research showed “roughly one-third of U.S. workers ages 18-36 say they feel comfortable discussing pay with their co-workers, more than any other age group and about four times the rate among baby boomers, ages 53-71,” according to that same WSJ article (“Pay Is Less Secretive in Millennial Workforce,” by Kelsey Gee, October 26, 2017).

In consideration of this trend toward transparency, churches should be prepared to explain why some staff members make more than others and begin to formalize compensation and benefits practices.

As we start 2018, I’m excited to share brand-new research about salaries and benefits of Restoration Movement ministers. Our anonymous salary survey was completed by 401 ministers in October 2017. Ninety percent of the respondents serve in a full-time ministry capacity (30 hours or more per week), 7 percent work part-time (29 hours or less), and 3 percent are volunteers.

I’ll examine the data from various viewpoints to provide context and insights for ministers and churches to use as they plan and prepare for future compensation, benefits, and budgeting discussions and decisions. You also might want to check out this online resource (www.time.com/salary) from Money and Time magazines; it lets you compare your pay to the median salary earned by people your age in your state.


Full-time Lead Ministers’ Salaries by Church Size

Two-thirds of the ministers who completed the survey are lead ministers. And 92 percent of these lead ministers serve in a full-time capacity. Not surprisingly, the results show that the larger the church, the larger the minister’s salary. On average, the largest percentage increase occurs in the jump from an emerging megachurch (average weekly attendance of 1,000 to 1,999) to a megachurch (more than 2,000 attending). Megachurch ministers make 60 percent more on average than their emerging megachurch counterparts.

Collectively, the average salary for all full-time lead ministers in this study is $67,773, based on 240 responses. Eighteen lead ministers report working part-time hours with an average annual salary of $17,356. Seventeen of these part-time ministers serve in a church with an average attendance of fewer than 100 people.


Full-time Lead Ministers’ Salaries by Church Location

Lead ministers serving in a church located in a newer suburb around a city have the highest average salary, $90,487 annually. Small-town and rural community lead ministers have the lowest average salary, $57,269, which is 58 percent less than the average lead minister in the newer suburban church.


Salaries based on Ministry Position (Full-time and Part-time Combined)

Twenty-nine of the lead ministers report making more than $100,000 annually, while five report making less than $10,000 a year. Thirteen of the 15 executive ministers who participated in the survey serve in a church with an average attendance of more than 500.


Salaries Based on Church Budget Size (All Positions and Hours)

Here’s a look at average salaries based on the size of the church budget. These numbers reflect both full-time and part-time ministers serving in any staff position. While some ministers from churches with budgets of more than $10 million responded, there weren’t enough participants to draw clear conclusions. The primary trend shows that staff salaries increase as church budgets increase.

There was an aberration in the category for churches with average annual budgets of $750,000 to $1 million. The average salary of $76,436 for churches of this budget size is higher than the next three larger budget categories. My guess is that churches with a budget of more than $1 million have more ministers on staff than the churches in the $750,000 to $1 million range. Therefore, the average salary dips comparatively.


Salaries Based on Education Level

The old adage is true—it pays to go to school! The survey shows that a higher level of education results in a larger salary. Ministers with a master’s degree on average make 19 percent more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. And those with a doctoral degree make an average of 28 percent more than ministers with a master’s degree.


Salaries Based on Gender

There were 379 salary survey responses from men and only 20 from women. One-fourth of the women surveyed serve as a children’s minister and 19 percent serve as discipleship or small group ministers.


Benefits by Church Size

Emerging megachurch ministers appear to have the best benefits packages overall, based on this survey, although megachurch ministers are the most likely to report receiving health insurance, a retirement/403(b) match or contribution, and disability insurance.

In addition to the benefits listed below, ministers wrote in some additional benefits they receive, which include: paid utilities, a YMCA membership, a weekend getaway with a spouse for up to $500, dependent care reimbursement, and half off the church’s preschool for their children. 

Benefits Based on Full-time Vs. Part-time Employment

It makes sense that full-time employees receive more benefits than part-time employees, and the survey results confirm this. Full-time ministers are far more likely to receive these five benefits than part-time ministers: health/medical insurance, retirement/403(b) match, cell phone allowance, paid vacation days, and a professional expense account.



I want to thank everyone who participated in our salary and benefits survey. I hope this information will help as you negotiate a raise, determine salary ranges for staff positions, and create compensation packages for new hires.


Kent E. Fillinger serves as president of 3:STRANDS Consulting and director of partnerships with CMF International, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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