Question #11

This much I have learned: Every church group of Christians knows the type of pastor they would like to serve their congregation and community. They have a basic idea of what they want in the pastor’s character, competencies, and credentials (such as experience and education).

This much I have also learned: Not every church is willing or able to pay for the pastor they want.  Consequently, congregational leaders often experience sticker-shock when the pastor they have been praying for comes on the scene.

So, before launching a search for a new pastor, congregational leaders must understand the parameters of a realistic salary and benefit package. They must also determine the employment status of their next pastor…will it be a full-time or a part-time position? Even the title of the position may affect the compensation. Are they looking for a Lead Pastor, an Associate Pastor, or a Youth Pastor?

How does a church determine what kind of employment package they can afford to offer?

We start with the annual income of the congregation. What is that number? How much income is expected in the coming year? Are there factors that may cause that number to change much in either direction?

Then we look at the budget of the congregation. This document should include the maintenance costs of the church building, including insurance. It should also include expenses such as purchasing bulletins and Sunday School materials. And, of course, a section for salary and benefits for any paid staff. 

While a moving target, the salary/benefits portion of the annual budget will land in the 40-80% range. The smaller the church, the higher the percentage the salary/benefit package will take up of the budget.  A church with an annual budget of $100,000 can expect that a significant chunk of the budget will be designated for staff.  As churches get bigger, the percentage decreases. Many congregations land in the 50-60% range. This means that if you have a $500K budget, you may plan on about $250-300,000 for staff.  You can do the math for your church and its budget.  Most congregations in America, however, worship with less than 200 people each week. Consequently, their annual budgets are $200,000 and under.

Congregational leaders might want to use additional resources to determine the parameters of the salary/benefit package offered to their new pastor. Many denominational offices and para-church organizations provide compensation surveys. These surveys typically include the average salaries for pastors and other staff members with comparisons by geographic region, education, and experience.

Through all the computations and considerations, we need to remember there is no “price” on preaching the Gospel. Instead we need to look at it this way: We are calling a pastor who will lead and teach us to better serve the Lord, and that person should be able to do that unencumbered by financial concerns.

Prayer Prompt: Lord, after we count the cost, free us from despair or over-confidence. You love our congregation more than we do. Give us faith in Your promise to provide us with a pastor.


ChapterNext is a pastor search and church consulting firm led by Rev. Sam Hamstra. They assist congregations through a handful of services, including staff development, weekend worship workshops, leadership retreats, congregational mergers, and ministry reviews (vision and mission statements, budgets, building renovation, and marketing plans). These services grew out of ChapterNexts’ founding purpose which is to help congregations turn the page so that they can begin writing new chapters of dynamic and life-transforming ministry.

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