Monday, October 13, 2014

Sorry, but that MDiv is not a paying investment

LifeWay and Baptist Press do a good job this time of the year in researching and writing about clergy salaries. BP's story about pastor salaries not keeping pace with inflation is a good example. As churches prepare budgets for the coming year, information about clergy pay is helpful.

According to LifeWay's 2014 Clergy Compensation Survey, pay and pay package increases for full-time senior pastors are going up at a rate less than the rate of inflation. This means that as a group, senior pastors are slightly losing ground relative to the cost of goods of services. Any senior pastor who finds a way to direct his church deacons, personnel, or finance committee to the LifeWay study and/or to this Baptist Press article is doing a good thing. Church people should be informed about such things. It may or may not help, but if the pastor doesn't take some initiative to inform key people in his church they will likely never have the relevant facts to make good decisions.

But I was drawn to another figure given in the BP piece:
Seminary graduates receive, on average, $1,981 more in total compensation than non-seminary graduates and receive more vacation days.
Less than $2,000 more for an MDiv? (I realize that the survey did not distinguish among the various seminary degrees but MDiv is the standard pastoral degree offered by all the seminaries.)

Let's see. You leave a paying job to attend one of the seminaries where you invest somewhere around $25,000 in tuition alone during the three years needed to acquire an Masters of Divinity degree. During that period most students continue to work but suffer the loss of significantly more income than they would have received if they continued in their secular job not to mention expenses related to moving and traveling, etc.

At the successful completion of a seminary education the minister has a shiny new masters degree which enables him to land a larger church with higher income prospects for his pastoral career.

You bet. On average, an extra $1,981 year after year-after-year.


Not exactly.

Do the math. Financially, it doesn't pay brethren. Most will never recover from where he would have been had they not sought to acquire that MDiv. But then, at least theoretically as a better educated pastor, he is a better pastor which is a worthy goal, finances aside, not to mention that following God's will is always a sound investment.

But considering the future of the Christian ministry in America - declining church membership numbers, reduced personal giving rates, and increasing economic marginality of average-sized and smaller SBC churches - maybe it's time to consider that a three year MDiv and the expenses thereof might be excessive.

Is a two-year MDiv program worth considering? I think so.


Anonymous said...

How many pastors in the survey hold a seminary degree vs the number who don't hold one?

Wondering if there are a handful of remarkable non-seminary grads out there pastoring large churches and that is driving up the average.

Lynn Gray, deacon
Morning Star Baptist - Meeker, Ok

William Thornton said...

...about 2300 degreed against 1000 or so not it was a broad survey with results not skewed by a few outliers.

Anonymous said...

You can't reduce the value of a seminary degree to its cost. The minister is much better prepared and the church receives a greater benefit in terms of the level of teaching/preaching provided by the minister. I am supportive of the work and opinions here but felt that this article diminished the value of a seminary education. I know that churches are, in many cases, no longer requiring the seminary degree. My own church is one of those and is dealing with many more staff issues because of it. Again, thank you for your work.