Clergy Salaries - Recent Research
Statistical Report and Summary of Salaries
At recent meetings of the young adult clergy of the Cal-Pac Conference there have been discussions about salaries for new clergy in that most young adult clergy are having financial concerns (if not difficulties) particularly with the prevalence of large debt from college and seminary. We are experiencing a very significant drop in the number of young clergy in this conference (15% in the early 80s to 4% 2006), and nationwide, and a feeling among the younger clergy that part of the decrease in young clergy has to do with how “unaffordable” it is to be in the clergy. With these concerns I was asked by the young adult clergy of the California-Pacific Annual Conference to explore salary schedules, related to several factors, including cost of living, other annual conferences, and educationally equivalent employment.
Some of the young clergy related comments made to them in derogatory tones that persons in their congregations thought that someone who went into the clergy “didn’t need the money.” Another related the comment from his congregation that someone went into the clergy “because the person was called, [not to make a living]” as a response to how difficult it was to make a living, pay the bills and concentrate on ministry with the current rates of pay.
Indeed, young clergy are entering the ranks of the ordained because they are called, but there are some significant concerns that we are turning away clergy before they ever enter the ordination process because individuals can see that there is no way to make a living in the clergy. There is evidence that persons who enter the clergy are leaving early because the bills are piling up faster than the income from the job, making it untenable to remain in the clergy, while many of those who remain in the clergy are hindered in their ministry because of financial stress
This anecdotal evidence is then followed up with data. If the church is serious about desiring young clergy and clergy who are earnest in following their call, some changes to salary schedules are going to have to be made. Additionally, there may be a need to better develop an understanding of the need and purpose of the professional clergy, and whether or not they need to be “full-time” in the local church.
Let me present, first, a study done by
Pulpit & Pew Report: Clergy Pay Causing Problems for Churches
Low and unequal wages paid to clergy threaten to turn their "calling" into a job -- and to turn away seminary students
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
Competitive, free-market approaches to determining clergy compensation -- used to varying degrees in virtually all Protestant denominations -- are harming the church and distorting its mission, according to a study by Duke University researchers.
Such approaches leave clergy financially vulnerable, change ministry from a "calling" to a "career," encourage congregations to grow for purely economic reasons and make it more difficult for pastors to offer leadership that challenges and transforms congregations, concluded the study's authors. The study is part of the ongoing Pulpit & Pew research project on pastoral leadership based at
"We're not saying that churches necessarily need to run out tomorrow and pay their clergy more, although that may be the case," said Becky McMillan, a labor economist, co-author of the study and associate director of Pulpit & Pew. "But it is time for them to step back and think purposefully about how they're paying their pastors and why."
Low clergy salaries make it difficult for pastors to be true to their calling, the study contends. And this lack of income is causing many talented seminary graduates to enter other professions or other forms of ministry.
The issue of clergy salaries is, at its core, as much about how congregations view their pastors as it is about money, McMillan said.
"The fact that we use the free market to determine how much to pay clergy suggests that we view them as paid employees who compete for the position, and not as people who are called and compelled by God to spread the gospel," she said. "Our study suggests that looking at clergy as paid employees is a problem."
The study, titled "How Much Should We Pay the Pastor?: A Fresh Look at Clergy Salaries in the 21st Century," recommends that Protestant churches reconsider how they set clergy pay. Rather than turning solely to the free market for guidance, they should instead narrow the salary gap between pastors at small and large churches and provide all pastors with sufficient compensation to enable them and their families to live a decent life -- in essence, providing them with a "living wage."
To do so, however, will require many churches to surrender some degree of autonomy in order to share resources and act collaboratively with other churches, particularly in providing benefits such as health coverage, retirement and educational debt repayment.
The study was conducted by McMillan and Matthew J. Price, former associate director of Pulpit & Pew and now director of analytical research at the Episcopal Church Pension Group in
Using salary figures compiled in a 2001 national clergy survey, McMillan and Price sought to examine how free market forces shape clergy compensation and how that, in turn, affects the church. They looked at clergy salaries by church "polity," or organizational structure, particularly regarding the amount of independence individual congregations have in setting salaries.
In all but the very largest Protestant churches, salaries for pastors in "connectional" polity churches (those subject to some degree of centralized authority such as Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and others) are consistently higher than clergy salaries in "congregational" polity churches (those with local church autonomy, such as Baptists, Pentecostals, United Church of Christ and others), the report stated. That disparity occurred even when controlling for pastor education, experience and church members' income.
About 60 percent of Protestant pastors serve in small churches, with an average weekly attendance of 100 or less. It was in these churches where the impact of church polity -- and the free market -- was most apparent, according to McMillan and Price. The median salary, including housing, for pastors serving small churches was $36,000 in connectional churches and $22,300 in congregational churches.
In large churches (with 351 to 1,000 in attendance, comprising about 5 percent of all Protestant churches), median salaries were $66,003 for pastors in connectional churches and $59,315 for pastors in congregational churches.
The same disparities exist in regard to fringe benefits, the researchers found. Pastors in congregational churches are much less likely than their connectional counterparts to receive pension benefits and health care coverage. Only 30 percent of small congregational churches, for example, provided retirement benefits for their pastors, compared to 80 percent of small connectional churches.
McMillan and Price attributed the differences in compensation primarily to centralized decision-making in connectional churches, which promote minimum salary guidelines and requirements to pay pension and health care benefits.
Regardless of polity, however, only a small percentage of pastors earn what most Americans would consider a professional-level salary, the study found. The median salary, including housing, for all full-time pastors in the study was $40,000.
Catholic clergy salaries do not create the same tensions, the researchers reported.
With no spouse or children to support, Catholic priests are generally paid less than Protestant clergy, the survey stated. Those lower salaries are offset by the provision of other benefits, including health care, retirement and theological education.
The range of salaries is much narrower for Catholic clergy. The median salary paid to Catholic priests varied only slightly regardless of the parish size, the survey showed. Median salaries for priests ranged from $20,883 for those serving small parishes (with less than 100 people in weekly attendance) up to $26,633 for those serving the largest parishes (with over 1,000 in attendance).
Rather than being determined by market forces, Catholic clergy salaries are set by the diocesan bishop and are typically comparable across a diocese. As a result, parishes that might not otherwise be able to afford a priest are often aided financially.
Freed from financial constraints, priests can more easily move between smaller and larger parishes as needed, the researchers said. Under such a system, excellence in ministry is driven not by financial incentives, but by faithfulness to one's call.
For more information, contact: Bob Wells | (919) 660-3427 | firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Duke study I draw several immediate conclusions. When pastors are concerned about how to stretch the dollar in the home the life care of the church begins to sink further and further into the background; and pastors in non-Catholic denominations are more likely to have to stretch the dollar. There is a significant disparity in salaries from large to small churches, which is induced by the structure of localized salaries, and shrinking congregations. While benefits are shown to be beneficial, pastors are still being paid below “consider[ed] professional-level salar[ies]”.
And now for some localized California-Pacific information for the discussion:
Reading through the various data, I know raw figures get rather tedious and we can draw our own inferences. For this reason I have set it apart, so that the reader may inform his or her own decision according to the data supports presented, and evidenced elsewhere in the webfiles provided.
Median Income for 4-Person Families (US Census Bureau)
US Census American Community Survey
2005 Median Household Income
The 2005 ACS includes only the household population. This universe includes both the civilian and military population in households and excludes the group quarters population. The group quarters population consists of the institutionalized (such as people in correctional institutions or nursing homes) and the noninstitutionalized (most of whom are in college dormitories).
National - $46,242
2005 US Census data
Median Income of person with a Graduate Degree
Men - $71,918
Women - $47,319.
All Clergy - $28,721
Full-Time Clergy - $34,696 (73.4
2005 Median Weekly Earnings – National (www.infoplease.com)
Clergy - $785 ($40,820-annual)
California 2005 OES State Occupational Employment Statistics
Median Hourly $21.81
Median Annual $45,370
Mean Hourly $23.06
Mean Annual $47,970
Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers in the West (US Dept. of Labor)
Base Year 1982-1984 = 100%
1996 Half 1 = 156.6%
2006 Half 1 = 204.5%
Cost of Living Index 2005 (www.infoplease.com)
2004-2005 Candler School of Theology
All Graduates (Percent with no debt)- 25.8%
All MDiv Graduates (Percent with no debt) - 23.6%
All MDiv Graduates (Percent with debt) - 76.4%; avg debt of those borrowing $34,834
UM MDiv Graduates (Percent with debt) - 78.3%; avg debt of those borrowing $29,908
1983 Pacific and Southwest Annual Conference Journal
Minimum Compensation $14,383
1984 Pacific and Southwest Annual Conference Journal
Minimum Compensation $14,528
Car Allowance Avg $2,282
Housing Allowance (30% of CAC) - $5,448
GCFA Figures for Cal-Pac Minimum Compensation 2006
Equitable Compensation (Cal-Pac Conference)
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Denomination Average Compensation (DAC)
Conference Average Compensation (CAC)
What I hope to offer now is some interpretation on my own behalf and for other young clergy (and clergy entering as a second career, as the statistics bear witness to them in some instances as well. We are trying to show that it is difficult to continue as a clergyperson in this conference at the current rates of pay).
First, let me impart some of the good news. As United Methodists we pay our clergy better than the national averages for clergy persons, especially once you include housing and medical benefits. (I calculate housing for clergy in California-Pacific at the rate of $1800 per month, which includes rent and utilities; medical benefits are calculated on the rate of nearly $4500 for a single clergyperson.) At this rate of pay, the lowest a full-time clergy person could earn would be around $46,000. This is greater than the 2005 figures for clergy pay on a national schedule.
Considering those figures it would seem that if one is a woman, one is likely to be paid according to the national median for persons with similar education. Our men, then, are receiving well below the median. This Conference also feels a great responsibility to maintain the equity of the sexes in pay and location for our appointments, and if we were to take the average of the median salaries for men and women with graduate degrees it would seem that we are still underpaying our clergy, who would be expecting to earn $60,000 as an individual.
While we have kept pace with paying our pastors a housing allowance or providing a parsonage, that is in line with our conference housing standards, in most regions of the conference, the cash salary for the job has failed to keep pace. Using the figures from 1984 as a baseline (1984 = 100%) one would expect to see that the conference minimum (1984 = $14,528) and conference average salary (1984 = $18,160) would have made similar growth to the Consumer Price Index. The 2006 CPI is 204.5%. At this rate Conference Minimum (Cal-Pac 2006) should be $29,710. Compare that to the Conference Minimum for Elders (Cal-Pac 2006) at $23,372. If we had kept pace with increases in the cost of living the average salary (CAS) should be $37,137 (+ ~$25,000 housing + medical). Current CAC figures indicate it is much lower than that at $49,560 for the entire package. The adjusted figures are still lower than the 4-person median incomes for the state, and we hope that our clergy should be able to support a 4-person family on the salaries we provide.
At the very least one would hope that the California-Pacific Annual Conference would keep pace with the denominational pay raises. While the Cost of Living and the Consumer Price Index are both very high for the state of
The Median Income figures match regular cost of living increases for our region and help to frame the context outside of the educational cost that our pastors are incurring to be able to participate in the clergy at all. I know that I, David Camphouse, graduated with almost $100,000 in debt. If I exclude the car, and some of the luxuries I bought and put on my credit card, I still carried nearly $70,000 of debt into the ministry (which translates to almost $10,000/year in loan payments). This included some from undergraduate ($10,000), credit card ($5,000), student loans from Candler ($45,000) and a loan from the North Alabama Conference who had sponsored me coming through the initial stages of candidacy ($10,000). Other figures for young clergy are forthcoming, as they are currently being surveyed.
Currently, students at Candler School of Theology graduate with an average of $34,834 in loans to the school, which excludes any credit card debt they may have incurred paying for food and books while in seminary, transportation to and from internships/jobs and additional loans from local churches or Conferences or undergraduate degree programs. I have also requested this information from Fuller School of Theology and Claremont School of Theology.
I hope that this has helped to bring the problem into focus, and I look forward to helping devise a way to overcome and encourage the church into the new century, and equitable pay schedules.
By: Rev. David Camphouse, on behalf of California-Pacific Conference Young Adult Clergy
Contributors (The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the contributors, or the United Methodist Church): Rev. Molly Vetter, Rev. Catie Coots, Jan Hanson, John Camphouse, Cathy Wilson, Rev. George Crisp, Hans Smith, Kathy Smith, Shonda Jones and Rev. Erika Gara