Southern Baptist Pastor Salaries Not Keeping Pace With Inflation: LifeWay

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(Photo: The Christian Post)Messengers pray together at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, on June 13, 2018.

Salaries for Southern Baptist Convention pastors are not keeping up with the rate of inflation, according to a new report by LifeWay Research.

The biannual study, whose findings were released Thursday, was a joint project in which LifeWay Christian Resources worked alongside GuideStone Financial Resources and state conventions.

For full-time senior pastors in the SBC, compensation, defined as salary plus housing, increased 3.8 percent over the past two years. By contrast, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for the same time period increased 4.6 percent.

Other church positions fared worse in comparison, with a 1.5 percent compensation increase for full-time staff ministers and a 2.3 percent compensation increase for full-time office personnel.

According to LifeWay, factors that contributed to greater compensation included more years of experience, overseeing a larger congregation, and a higher education level.

“Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $5,681 more than similarly qualified pastors with no college education or an associate degree,” explained LifeWay.

“Master’s and doctorate degrees correspond with compensation increases of $5,754 and $10,868, respectively, when compared to college graduates.”

The report drew its data from an online survey conducted Feb. 1 to July 6 that included responses of approximately 11,000 clergy from 40 different state Baptist conventions.

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Concerns over the lack of financial compensation for clergy has been the subject of recent research. In a report released last year, LifeWay found that 60 percent of surveyed spouses of pastors agreed with the statement “Our family’s financial situation requires more than the salary received from the church.”

“About a third (36 percent) say they worry every month about making ends meet. Forty-six percent say they worry about not being able to save for the future. Sixty percent say the compensation paid by the church isn’t enough to support their family,” reported LifeWay at the time.

Last summer, researchers from the University of Oklahoma found that in 2016 the gender pay gap between female and male clergy is smaller than the overall gender pay gap between men and women.

Cyrus Schleifer, assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma’s Sociology Department and co-author of the study, told The Christian Post in an interview last year that this smaller difference was largely because of “the declines in male clergy pay.”

“If male clergy income was growing at the same rate as other highly educated individuals in population, then the gender gap in pay among clergy would be much closer to that of the general population,” explained Schleifer last summer.

“The factors that seem to matter the most for our analyses is the very slow growth rates of male clergy income and, relatedly, the general devaluing of the clergy occupation.”

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