Pastors Average Salary

What's the data say about a Pastor's average Salary? 

Pastors Average Salary

“You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain”. Very few of us think about this verse when we consider the essential elements of a healthy church. And yet, for Paul, this teaching comes up, one way or another, over and over again in his letters to the churches.


No, Paul isn't a rancher nor is he primarily concerned with the local church cattle. He's talking about paying your pastors.


And I'm willing to bet you’ve got wages on your mind too, since, well, you're here. Having the responsibility of determining a person's compensation is no easy job. There are so many questions surrounding the topic of pastor salaries.


Questions Worth Asking

What is the average base salary of a pastor? Is that how much we should be paying? How much should a senior minister make? How about an associate pastor? Do I make more or less if I'm on the church staff? A youth pastor? What if one pastor is fulfilling multiple roles? Should he be compensated with more? Where do I go to look for a  church job? How much do education, experience, costs of living, congregation size, and so many other factors influence the salary? What about health insurance? Do we pay for that?


So many questions, so little time!


I won't be answering every possible question regarding pastoral compensation here, but I do want to establish a few principles that will help you navigate through the oft-murky waters of ministerial monies. That way, you can take those critical pieces of information and apply them to the unique situation you find yourself in.


Ready? Let's do this thing.

A Quick Caveat

Before we jump into the numbers, I need to point out one thing. There are several unique characteristics of how pastors are paid that can heavily influence the numbers below.


First, and for very understandable reasons, a culture of coyness has developed around discussing staff salaries in the church. Many ministers feel hesitant to talk about their income. After all, they are the ones encouraging the church to give money in the first place.


This peculiar dynamic has proven to be a powerful basis for many churches to refrain from openly discussing pastoral compensation. This means whatever numbers we do get are by necessity drawn from a limited sample size.

Comparing Average Pastor Salary Ranges

Alright, now that we've set the stage, let’s look at some numbers according to a few of the largest recruitment sites out there.


According to (at the time of this writing) the average pastoral pay in the united states is between $84,670 and $116,756


That strikes us as rather high, since for the last 20 years the average church in the united states has had approximately 65 congregants. That would be quite an impressive salary for so few people to fund.


With our suspicions aroused by, we continued the search. Next up, according to, which is the largest job site in the world, the average salary of pastor in the United States is $45,434.


Yeah. That's less than half of our first range of numbers. With such a discrepancy between these two companies, we decided to go even further up the authoritative food chain. Next stop, the U.S government.


Uncle Sam


According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 90th percentile of pastoral wage estimates sits at $80,920, with the median salary estimate at $49,720 and the 10th percentile coming in at just $30,450.


In other words, 90% of pastors make less than $80,920, while 50% make less than $49,720 and 10% are paid less than $30,450.

Pastor Salaries Variables Galore


It would only be natural if at this point you were wondering why there are such wide salary ranges in the reporting of “average” salaries. It’s because unlike professions where compensation is driven primarily by market forces, pastoral pay is heavily weighted by other factors. These include things like:


  • Costs of living
  • Church size
  • Pastoral duties
  • Expenses
  • Education
  • Experience

Cost of Living

Returning to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can see that the annual mean wage of pastors in our capitol, D.C, is $71,710, where the average cost of living is $65,169 per year.


Moving away from the coast and looking to the middle of the country in the wonderful state of Nebraska, we find the mean pastoral salary to be just $48,080, while the cost of living is approximately $40,000 per year (6).


For the sake of everyone reading this article, I won’t continue to belabor the point with more numbers. What we can take away quite clearly is that in general, the average salary of a pastor usually reflects something just above the average cost of living in a specific area.

Pastors Salaries By Church Size

Before any church decides how much they would like to have their pastor get paid, they must first determine how much they are able to pay.


It’s been reported that churches tend to allocate 46% to 60% of their budget on compensation, with the average hovering around 52%. (7)


And as you can imagine, church budget is almost entirely driven by church size. An extremely generous but small rural church with 35 members is going to have a radically lower budget than even a penny-pinching metropolitan church with 1,200 members.


By way of example, consider this report from 2019 by Pushpay wherein a senior minister in a church with 0-500 attendees has a pay range of roughly $68,000 to $156,000, while a church with 1,200+ in attendance would see a salary range for the that pastor falling between $92,000 and $189,000.

Pastoral Duties

But what about other pastoral roles, such as pastor of youth, or worship pastor, or children pastor, and so forth? Let's consider just one example.


Looking back to the same Pushpay report mentioned above, the salary range for a youth pastor is between $35,000 and $62,000. That’s essentially half the pay of a senior pastor. Why is that? Well, it is true that both of these are pastoral roles, but generally speaking, and probably in your experience as well, the job description for these two roles will vary far more than their job titles may suggest.


Typical expectations for a senior pastor role would be something like 40-50 sermons per year, as well as leading weekly meetings, spearheading various evangelistic and or community endeavors, counseling, performing marriages and funerals, mentoring, teaching bible studies, and on and on and on.


And yet, depending on your church context, a youth pastor may be expected to preach less than 5 times a year while focusing the rest of their attention on weekly youth gatherings and other events. A role like this very well may be part-time, in fact. Again, it all depends on your context. I have seen churches where the youth pastor was effectively acting as assistant pastor, executive pastor, children’s pastor, and so much more all at once. While getting paid a part-time wage.


So in order to answer the question, "How much does a pastor make?”, one needs to answer the question, “what kind of pastor?”. And finally, “what will this pastor be responsible for?”



Benjamin Franklin once said, “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”. How right he was.


Without going crazy deep into U.S. tax law, one important note about ministers is that they are generally considered by the Federal Government to be self-employed. This basically means they cheerfully donate more to the IRS than most of us. For example, a typical employee has roughly 7.5% in deducted from their paycheck for Medicare and Social Security while their employer pays the same 7.5% on their behalf. The pastor, however, being “self-employed”, must pay the full 15.5%.


Long story short, pastors pay more in taxes, and this must be taken into consideration when churches construct their compensation packages for pastors.

Non-cash Benefits


However, many churches help offset the higher tax rate by providing church staff with what can be called non-cash benefits. This most commonly includes a housing allowance, aka the pastor and his family live in the parsonage (for free!).


I’ve even seen some church staff share a cellphone plan, use church vehicles, and raid the youth snack closet every Friday night.


Additionally, we regularly see churches gladly pay for the pastor to further their education. This is crucial, since pastors do more than give general spiritual guidance, but they must regularly, week in and week out, speak directly into the lives of members on a near limitless range of deeply concerning topics.


All in all, with a little creativity, churches find ways to help pastors get by without raising their taxable income (read: salary!) and thereby distorting the reported figures for the average pastor salary.


We bring this up to suggest that in order to answer the question, “what is the average salary for pastors?” one must be aware of some of the unique variables that are at play with pastoral pay.


Look, if anything is obvious by this point, discussing pastor salaries can be difficult. Trying to consider everything from number of members, experience level, education, previous jobs, location, staff position, annual incentives, benefits, outreach skills, and so forth is simply a lot of data.


Most pastors are fully dedicated to the ministry, regardless of salary. Perhaps this is why it is especially helpful for the Christian Church to not think of itself as employers of professionals, nor to think of their pastors merely as employees who are being paid for a job, but rather to construct salaries that love and serve the person who spends a literal career in prayer!


May God bless your endeavors to construct a helpful compensation package for your pastor, regardless of his job title, so that pay is far from his mind, allowing all the more space in there for the person in the pew.


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