Conversations about salary and compensation are difficult in any kind of job—and these conversations become even more arduous in the church. There's tension between ministry work being a "gift" for the church and a pastor deserving fair pay for their demanding responsibilities. Both a pastor and the church may want to avoid the uncomfortable conversation, but it's critical to discuss fair pay for church staff.

How Can Churches Be Confident in a Pastor's Pay?

Pastors are the leaders of our churches. In this role, they have a weighty responsibility of cultivating spiritual growth within their congregations—and others outside the church also see a pastoral profession as a hefty assignment. Here's how PayScale, a secular salary site, describes the role of a pastor:

"The senior pastor of a church is responsible for providing spiritual leadership and pastoral care to the members of his or her church. They serve as the chief administrator, overseeing all administrative functions for the church."

PayScale then lists a pastor's responsibilities in preaching and teaching, planning services, administrating the sacraments, and providing counsel—and it also points out that a pastor receives one of the lowest salaries among professionals, according to the data PayScale has compiled.

Not only do pastors receive a relatively low wage, but a pastor's salary will vary dramatically based on numerous factors: location, years of experience, amount of education, and other industry-specific factors. According to the 2016-2017 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, published by Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax, a solo pastor in a rural farming area makes an average of $48,892 a year, while the same solo pastor could make an average of $75,710 serving in a suburb of a large city. With large differences like this—and with no way of knowing where their salary stands in relation to their peers—how can a pastor know they are being paid fairly?

Churches need to consider how they pay their pastors and staff, and pastors deserve to know whether they are receiving fair wages. But here's the problem: Not all churches know whether their salaries are fair or not.

Will You Help Pastors Receive a Fair Wage?

The Church Law & Tax Team of Christianity Today wants to help churches approach the salary question with confidence, and they do this by publishing the Compensation Handbook for Church Staff. This handbook allows churches to know if their salaries are fair by comparing them to thousands of other pastors' salaries nationwide. It also provides churches with compensation profiles classified by full-time and part-time staff, church size, church budget, and geographical setting. Compensations levels are presented based on personnel characteristics, such as years employed, denomination, region, gender, and educational training.

In order to create the Compensation Handbook, Church Law & Tax needs help from pastors and church staff who are willing to take the National Church Compensation Survey. All responses received are anonymous, and the data you share will be used in combination with other responses to create the 2018 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.

If you or someone you know works in a church, you can help by taking the survey. In return, Christianity Today is giving those who complete the survey one of three free gifts—either a church finance eBook, a six-month subscription to Christianity Today magazine, or a congregation-wide Bible study on financial stewardship.

Caitlin Edwards serves as the marketing coordinator for Church Law & Tax.