Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Average SBC senior pastor pay: $56,845

Average SBC senior pastor pay: $56,845

What's so hard about that?

Don't like it or don't believe it? Then argue with GuideStone whose 2010 Southern Baptist Convention Compensation Study is easy to understand and use.

I admit to a bit of despair over people arguing with me on the housing allowance discussions that the figure is meaningless, irrelevant, or that people make more than the average and bring up those who make lower. For crying out loud, that is why we call it an average.

The sum of $56,845 is for all full time senior pastors who responded to the survey in states where almost all of the SBC churches are located. It is what was reported as salary payments, housing allowance payments, and fair rental value of church owned housing but not including retirement or insurance payments.The figure does not include accountable reimbursement payments or what is generally called automobile allowance.

The figure is an average, the mathematical mean - sum up all of the respondants and divide by the number (there were over 3,000 respondents). It doesn't matter if you don't make this much or if you don't know anyone who makes this much. It is an average. 

We are not all that poorly paid, on average.

For those senior pastors who live in church owned housing, it is appropriate to include the fair rental value as part of his compensation. Five years ago I would have said that including the fair rental value gave a distorted result, since living in a pastorium was a liability in the sense that the pastor is forced to forego building equity in his own home. Building equity in real estate? What a quaint thought.

The average teacher salary in my state, Georgia, is $52,815.

The average registered nurse salary in my state is about $61,000.  

The average police officer pay is just under $50,000.

For those who think we are worth more, I don't disagree but would simply say that market forces are at work for us just like everyone else.

Answer this: Do you know of a church that needs a pastor and is offering a compensation package near the SBC average? How many viable candidates are available to that church? Probably dozens and dozens, ministers figuratively lining up to be considered. If a church has a thick stack of resumes there is not much incentive to increase the compensation package. The pastor candidate who asks for a good sum above the average will likely not find a receptive committee.

Perhaps Obama could issue an executive order that repealw the law of supply and demand.

Of course our $56,845 annual salary doesn't include intangibles such as being loved and appreciated by everyone.

Oh, one note from the compensation study:  
Over the past 16 years, this study has been conducted every two years...It should also be noted that over the 16 years this study has been compiled, compensation for ministers and church has increased at a rate higher than the rate of inflation.

 Not all news is bad news.

There is, however, a sobering reality about SBC pastor pay. It is a fact that is simple and obvious but probably not talked about too much. I will cover that tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Be interesting to know the median figure in addition to the mean figure.

Matt said...

Way to leave us hanging...

Anonymous said...

Does this report take into account the salaries of pastors who do not consider themselves "senior pastor"? I consider a senior pastor to be a pastor who has other pastors on staff, making them "senior" to the other pastors. However, I imagine most churches do not have more than one person on pastoral staff, and thus, no "senior pastor". Or, is any single-pastor a "senior pastor"? I ask because if the study is comprised of churches where there is more than one person on pastoral staff it would indicate a larger church and would naturally effect the salary outcome. Or, it could be the case that pastors who do not consider themselves as a "senior pastor" simply do not respond. When I pastored a small rural church, I would not have considered myself as a "senior pastor" since I lacked other pastor staff.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know what size churches the respondents were from who answered the survey. With the majority of churches in the SBC having 100 or less congregants, I highly doubt if that figure is correct for the 40,000 + churches that comprise the SBC. I don't doubt that the figure is accurate for those who responded...I just think that many who are in small churches, and who may be bi-vocational or semi-retired, and whose salaries are much lower, probably did not respond to the query by Lifeway. Therefore to make the claim that the avg is 56k may be misleading since it is only taken from a pool of voluntary responders. Just my $.02.....Kevin in Vegas

William Thornton said...

The compensation study used to include the median but the distribution was such that it was almost the same as the average. To simplify the reports the median figure was dropped.

William Thornton said...

Nah, "senior pastor" is just the term used for pastor - single staff or large staff. Don't we all feel more important now that single staff, lone ranger staff, one and only one staff pastors can call themselves the "senior pastor?"

William Thornton said...

Kevin, go to the link and you may view the responses which were in all of the categories you mention. The implication of your comment is that the survey may be unusable because it is not representative. I think that the number of responses is such that your concerns may be dismissed.

You could email them and ask.

William Thornton said...

I'm reading the tea leaves here and suppose that many think the average is too high.

Go to the link. It doesn't take much to check the average salary for senior pastor by church size, or by average attendance, or by by church budget.

Pastor a church that has average attendance of 75-99? Average salary of the 316 churches in that size that responded is $44,709. The high reported salary for that size was $153,000, so put your resume in for that church.

Anonymous said...

Hey William,
I don't know current proportions, but a few years ago, it was over half of all SBC churches that were 1-99 membership. If that is anywhere close today, there were 316 responses out of a potential sample size of approx 22,000, or 316/22,000= 1.4% response. I am thinking that many small churches that are able to pay much less are not going to report due to lack of concern(what is ther motivating factor to fill out a form for Lifeway???) I am also thinking that a 98+%(if above suppositions are accurate) non-reporting rate leaves a BIG question mark as to the actual salary of an SBC pastor....Kevin

Tim Dahl said...

If I read that right: they didn't take insurance into account?

Man, that is tough! I mean, if we are going to be compared to teachers and such, shouldn't benefits be included?

We (me and my two boys) get our insurance thru Lifeway at the moment. My wife gets her insurance thru her work. It cost us (me and the boys) $770 per month for our medical. It would have cost us $800 per month if we were added to my wife's insurance. Putting my wife on our Guidestone/Liveway insurance, puts us over $1000 per month!

So, should't we reduce that average amount by $12K-15K??? That is something people in "normal" jobs don't have to take into account. But, it is the pain that far to many self-employed folks have to feel.

Of course, if I misread it; I apologize.


Tim Dahl said...

Oh man, not "Lifeway!" We get our stuff through Guidestone!!!!


William Thornton said...

Kevin, I am not concerned about the data being skewed. You may find better data in which case I will look at it. If not, this hard data trumps all of our feelings as to what the figures should be.

Tim, all the salary figures used exclude benefits.

William Thornton said...

An astute reader will have noticed that I used the older 2010 study not the current 2012...oops, in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

"Tim, all the salary figures used exclude benefits."

If there are any?