Posted by: watchman | June 24, 2009

Pay the Pastor?

I just thought I would stir up some trouble here.

What responsibility does a local church have in providing for a pastor and his/her family?

I heard a story the other day of a pastor who was candidating at a church, and in the interview process he listed some pretty strange compensation demands. He had previously ministered at a white-collar suburban church and was applying at a rural blue collar parish. While salary was not a sticking point, he had several unforgivable demands pertaining to the home which the Church was renting for him and his family. He insisted that the Church provide lawncare for his home, saying “you can’t expect me to work 40 hours AND mow the lawn.”


According to some stats I found, the median pastor’s salary is over $84,000 a year. However, when you take out the megachurches and just focus on small churches (100 or less), the salary drops significantly. According to a 2003 study, small church pastors make an average of 36,000.  Let’s not forget about the divergence in various pastoral capacities (senior, associate, youth, etc.) and the relationship of gender to salary. This chart should shed some light on that:

All this is a far cry from the days when preachers were given a portion of the harvest.

Honestly, I am starting to become more and more suspicious of the need for professional clergy. It seems to me that all this effort to establish a clergy hierarchy in the church may have let laity off the hook. Instead of empowering the people in the pews, paying a pastor tends to make people look at their minister as an slave employee. But, I’ll save that discussion for another time.

Until then, my family will continue eating government cheese and ministering to the best of our ability.

What are your thoughts on paying the pastor? What dollar figure should we place on their service? Should we pay them alot, or whould they just be happy that we bother to pay them at all? What criteria should be used to determine pay?



  1. This issue, along with a few others, is putting me firmly in the plurality of elders camp. I think it is realistic for a church to have several laymen who serve together and do not ask the church to cover their costs.

    I had a blog post once about the transformation of ministers into tools and scapegoats for service by the people who “pay” them.

  2. I agree with the elders comment by rodmaster. Since most churches are actually paying a pastor something–if the budget can handle it, there salary should be roughly averaging the salaries of the rest of the church members. If it is a particularly wealthy church, there should be a salary cap…say, $60,000, if you live in a relatively inexpensive place like Michigan, or maybe $100,000 if you live in an expensive place like San Diego or NYC.

  3. BTW-hi Botolff, next time you’re in town we should get some BW’s.

  4. Hi Mark. Thanks for the invite to BW’s. The next time I’m home maybe we can get together. In order for me to meet though, you would have to be willing to talk about what the church did to Corey, and what you are doing to address the problem. If we can do that, then by all means, let’s get some wings.

  5. […] make between 60K and 80K a year (see a fancy graph). Not, that they don’t deserve it, but this guy got ripped […]

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