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Wednesday, September 19, 2007
What Pastors Get Paid
So I know there has been a lot put out recently deriding millionaire pastors, but I found this recent study put out by Christianity Today on what us average folks make more relevant. You can read a summary of the study at the Out of Ur blog. But I especially thought this part regarding what female pastors make was interesting -
Female solo pastors earn more than male solo pastors.
Okay, so there aren’t many female solo pastors; in American churches responding to our survey, only six percent of solo pastors are women. Still, it’s intriguing that female solo pastors reported 10.4 percent higher total compensation. Their average salary was 8.6 percent higher than men’s ($49,219 compared to $45,259); and better housing and retirement benefits made up the rest. Why the difference? Why do female solo pastors earn, for total compensation (includes health insurance, retirement, and continuing education), $62,472, when their male counterparts earn $56,558?

My first hypothesis went like this: “Since there are precious few women hired as senior pastors—only 2.5 percent, in our research—women stay in solo pastorates longer, and their longevity leads to higher pay.” But that hypothesis doesn’t hold up: for solo pastors, the number of years served makes next to no difference in pay.

The more-likely explanation is regional. We know that solo pastors receive the highest pay in the New England and Pacific states (not surprisingly, given the higher cost of living in these regions). And these regions probably have the greatest cultural acceptance of women serving as solo pastors. Thus, women solo pastors tend to find work in regions with a high cost of living, and consequently, get a higher salary.

And before we assume that the church runs counter to the still-prevalent cultural practice of paying women less than men for comparable work, women were paid less than men in every other church position surveyed (except for secretary). On average, females earned approximately 80 percent of the compensation of males. Or, in other words, males earned about 30 percent more than females.

I think their explanation (female pastors are more accepted on the coasts which also have a higher cost of living) makes sense. I also wonder if the women who are solo pastors serve in mainline denominations that have established programs for things like health insurance, retirement, as well as sufficient funds to pay pastors a living wage as opposed to the (mostly) men who serve in smaller more conservative churches that have no resources and pay poorly. What are your thoughts or reactions to studies like these?

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posted by Julie at 10:03 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/19/2007 02:14:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    I would guess that the mainline theory would hold true - most non denominational churches are less inclined to have solo female pastors which means that you'll likely find more of them in denominations that have the sort of benefits and "salary support" that would explain a higher salary.

  • At 9/19/2007 03:40:00 PM, Anonymous sonja

    I wonder if the salaries broke down along these lines? I think this map is pretty interesting ... and says a lot about some of the ways people think and behave in and around the country. I don't mean that negatively or positively ... it's just interesting. And you can see how trends fall out.

  • At 9/20/2007 03:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    As a mainline (recently non-)solo female pastor on the west coast, let me add another thought: most of the women in my denomination would not read or answer a survey from Christianity Today. (I did, but I'm weird.) I suspect that's true for a lot of the mainlines. What that means for stats is that all those women serving tiny rural or urban churches and trying to live on 1/4-time or 1/2-time pay aren't in there. I know from experience in another denomination, while living in the midwest, that women -- particularly single women -- in that one were routinely assigned to small or dying churches. That would add to the skewing.


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