September 12, 2014

​Big Churches, Big Bucks: Southern Senior Pastors Take top Salaries

 ©2014 Religion News Service

Large churches in the South tend to pay their senior
pastors the highest salaries, a new survey finds.

That’s one of the conclusions on churches
and finances released September 9 by Leadership Network, a Dallas-based
church think tank, and the Vanderbloemen Search Group, a Houston-based
executive search firm for churches and ministries. A total of 727 North
American churches with attendance ranging from 1,000 to more than 30,000
answered questions, more than double the number of congregations featured in
previous studies.

The survey found that 14 percent of large
churches have a financial bonus structure for their top leader. And one in
five of the big congregations find ways to collect their money other than
passing the proverbial offering plate.

Warren Bird, research director at Leadership
Network, said pastors have long held a lofty place of authority in the South,
and that may be why they are paid more in that region.

Northeastern churches are the second-highest
paying, followed by the West and the Midwest. The lowest-paying region in North
America is Canada.

The higher pastor salaries in the South contrast
with lower-than-average wages for the region. The Department of Labor Bureau of
Statistics reports average annual wages of workers in all the states in the
Deep South — Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina — are
lower than the U.S. annual wage of $49,804.

Although researchers agreed not to divulge
specific salaries of particular pastors or the identity of participating
churches, they were able to determine trends in these congregations that
reflect about one-quarter of the nation’s Protestant worshippers. For example:

* The larger the church, the more the senior
pastor is likely to be paid.
* The second-in-command at many churches
earns about 70 percent of the salary of the top executive.
* Three-quarters of
the churches gave pay raises between 1 and 5 percent and the most common raise
was 3 percent for 2014.

“Bigger means more employees, more volunteers,
more moving parts and a greater scope of leadership required,” Bird said. “That
reality usually leads to more compensation across a host of organizations.”

In fact, the common pay raise also reflects a
wider social trend. Towers Watson, a Virginia-based professional services
company, released a separate survey on September 8 that found that U.S.
employers plan to give their professional employees an average pay raise of 3
percent in 2015.