By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote, Helen Parmley, “Southern Baptists Rest Paid Ministers,” Lexington Herald-Leader, Oct. 12, 1987, p. A- 1.
DALLAS – Dallas churches pay their senior ministers more than any other city in the country. And the nation’s highest paid minister is a Southern Baptist pastor in Dallas whose total annual compensation is $149,150.
A survey to determine the compensation for people in the ministry or related jobs in 10 American Christian denominations finds that Dallas ministers and Southern Baptist clergy are the best paid in the United States.
The survey ranked Kentucky 12th among the states and Lexington 19th among the cities in the level of pay for senior ministers of all the denominations.
The churches in the Southern Baptist Convention are autonomous, operated independently, like a franchised business. They do not make pastors’ salaries public.
The study finds striking differences among denominations and”regions in the average senior pastor’s total compensations.
Heading the list are Southern Baptists, who pay their senior pastors an average annual package of $50,458. Presbyterians run a close second at $49,934, and Episcopalians are third, with an average of $46,811.
Independent Churches of Christ reported the lowest average – $31,908, with the Nazarenes, at $33,420, and Disciples of Christ at $34,069, second and third from the bot tom, respectively.
The survey also shows that Baptist provisions for their ministers’ retirements are among the lowest.
Disciples were just above the 10 percent level recommended in the study. But along with the Baptists, the United Methodists, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Assemblies of God, the Church of Christ and the Nazarenes all were below 10 percent.
Denominationally, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians pay well above the average retirement package, at 11 percent of total compensation.
The survey was conducted by the Ministers’ Financial Services Association of Lubbock, Texas. The company gathered information from nearly 1,000 congregations in 10 Christian denominations.
The association examined the full financial package for pastors in the Assemblies of God, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Episcopal Church, Independent Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and United Methodist churches.
The response from Roman Catholics was so small that even though the results were published, they were not considered by those who took the survey to reflect an accurate picture of the compensation received by priests.
Among the 10 denominations, the average compensation package for the senior minister of a church is $42,481. The total includes base salary, housing and utilities allowances, insurance and pension payments and other benefits.
The average pay drops considerably for an associate minister, whose average full compensation is $34,424, and a minister of pre-school education, whose average pay package is $20,789.
Overall, among those surveyed, the second-highest paid church position is that of the minister of music, except in many larger churches, where the second-highest paid staff member is the business administrator.
Michael J. Springer, executive director of the Ministers’ Financial Services Association, said that when compared with the $50,525 median income for people across the nation with graduate education – equivalent to seminary – many ministers “could possibly be significantly underpaid.”
Geographically, the Sun Belt warms up the most to its preachers. In ranking of clergy pay state by state, the survey shows that the South and South Central regions dominate the top of the pay charts.
Fifteen of the top 20 states are in those two regions. Every state in the South Central region except Kansas was in the top 20. Ranked in order, the most generous are Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, California and North Carolina.
Besides Southern Baptists, in the six-state South Central area of the United States, the highest total compensation for senior ministers of churches are: Christian (Disciples), $64,786; Independent Church of Christ, $48,000; Episcopal, $111,808; Lutheran, $52,549; Methodist, $114,988; Nazarene, $85,962; Pentecostal, $95,280; Presbyterian, $128,992; Roman Catholic, $15,072.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 5, p. 139
March 3, 1988