Nashville, Tenn. – A new report that examines how salaries varied for United Methodist pastors in the U.S. found that average pastor salaries grew faster than the inflation rate over the decade ending in 2008.
Average salaries increased steadily by approximately 2 percent per year, for a 21 percent over a decade. The average salary of a fulltime pastor not living in a parsonage was $55,000 in 2008, compared to $45,300 in 1998.
The study, which focused particularly on how salaries differ with respect to gender and race, found substantial salary differences between male and female pastors (13 percent), and white and non-white pastors (9-15 percent). Those differences were largely attributed to differences in seniority between male and female pastors, and the assignment of non-white pastors to congregations that pay lower salaries. “Most of the gender/race gap disappears once congregational, personal, and position attributes are taken into account,” the report states.
“The report concluded that the gender gap can be expected to decrease over time as more female pastors gain seniority, and in fact diminished somewhat from the beginning of the study period to the end,” said the Rev. HiRho Park, Director of Continuing Formation for Ministry. The percentage of female pastors in The United Methodist church increased by about 50 percent over the study period, and seniority of female pastors increased an average of about 30 percent.
Congregational size and resources were considerable differentiating factors for pastor salaries, with larger and wealthier charges paying pastors more than smaller charges. Location had a more moderate impact, with pastor salaries in urban charges 3-5 percent higher than other locations, but similar levels in suburban, large-town, and rural charges. The number of churches in a charge had a negative impact on salaries, even accounting for the size and resources of charges. Moving from one to two churches in a charge was associated with a 7 percent reduction in salary.
Associate pastors and part-time/other local pastors earned about 30 percent less than elders who are the lead or sole pastor (even after accounting for congregational attributes and differences in seniority), but there was only a moderate gap between full-time local pastors and elders.
Substantial differences were also found between conferences. Excluding Rio Grande (which was an outlier), more than $14,000 separated the conference with highest average salary (California-Nevada) from the lowest (West Virginia), even after adjustments were made for variations due to congregational, appointment, and personal characteristics (though not for the cost of living in various locations). The gender gap also differed between conferences, and was generally larger in southern conferences.
The study was conducted by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in collaboration with the General Commission on Status and Role of Women, the General Council on Finance and Administration, the Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University, United Methodist Communications, the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, the General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Board of Discipleship, and the General Board of Pensions. Two outside consultants assisted with the study, Dr. Eric Johnson of Princeton University and Dr. HeeAn Choi of Boston University.
The salary figures used for analysis included salary and any housing allowance paid to the pastor and reported to the General Board of Finance and Administration. Other forms of compensation, such as benefits and contributions to pension funds were not included.