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How much do pastors make at larger churches?

Ben Steelman


This is a tough question to answer, since churches — unlike secular non-profits  — do not have to submit financial statements to the government.

Most churches do not disclose pastoral salaries or other compensation. For example, Port City Community Church of Wilmington reported a total of $2,871,978 in staffing expenses (including wages, benefits, insurance and training) in its 2013 operating budget, roughly 45 percent of its total expenses. The church did not, however, specify how much each staff member makes.

A few surveys  nevertheless give some idea of what pastoral compensation is like.

A 2012 compensation study of the Baptist State Convention, conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources and LifeStone Financial Resources, found that the average salary for full-time senior pastors among the 411 member churches of the N.C. Baptist State Convention was $55,311. The complete pay package, including insurance, parsonage and other compensation, raised the average to $68,255.

For larger churches, however — those with memberships of 1,000 or more –the average total pay package for North Carolina SBC affiliate churches was $127,105, with $231,903 representing the high end of the spectum and $67,967 representing the low end.

A study for the United Methodist Church’s General Board for Higher Education and Ministry found that in 2008, the average salary of full-time pastors not living in a parsonage was $55,000.This figure, however, assumed a median congregational membership of 275. As the study’s author, Dr. Eric B. Johnon, noted, larger, wealthier congregations tend to pay their pastors more.

According to the website Salary.com, the median expected salary for a pastor in the United States is $86,895. Again, however, there are wide variations. A pastor in the 10th percentile of the survey would be earning $57,396, but a pastor in the 90th percentile is $109,065.

Compensation is a little lower in Wilmington; according to Salary.c0m’s figures, the median annual pastor’s salary in the Port City was $76,297, with those in the top 10 percent earning $95,000 or more.

Pastors’ compensation has been in the news in North Carolina since the Charlotte Observer reported in October that Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Matthews — a congregation with a reported following of 12,000 — had recently bought a 16,000-square-foot house with an estimated value (including lot) of $1.7 million. Church spokesmen said Elevation had provided no money for the purchase, with most of the proceeds coming from royalties on Furtick’s best-selling books “Greater” and “Sun Stand Still.”


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