Paying the Pastor: How to Figure Out Compensation for Clergy


As the Evergreen Project continues to create, collect, and curate the best resources for a thriving church, the issue of clergy compensation is unavoidable.

About a year ago, I wrote an article about this topic as part of a series on Awkward Church Questions.


  1. Who should have access to the giving records?
  2. How much should we pay the pastor?
  3. Should the pastor have a retirement fund?
  4. How does the church keep the pastor healthy?
  5. Do we need a capital campaign?

That means it is time to look at this issue again because this is something that should be reviewed and carefully analyzed on an annual basis.

There are several things that vestries have to do every year. Most know that they need to designate a housing allowance for clergy every year, but I would also encourage the Wardens to look at the overall clergy compensation as part of this process. This shouldn’t be adversarial or awkward, but the goal should be to care well for clergy.

Christianity Today recently ran an article about clergy compensation: “Pastors Don’t Do It For The Money, But Having Enough To Retire Would Be Nice.” The article highlights how many pastors struggle to make ends meet and the toll financial pressure can take on pastors, their families, and their long-term well-being.

With that in mind, I want to look at this issue through the lens of our own Anglican Family.

Specifically, I want to look at the data provided by several of our leading dioceses in this area so that clergy and vestries have a clear starting point for this conversation. Then, I want to talk about retirement.

Remember, ministry is not a “job.” Clergy should not think of themselves as simply doing a “job,” “punching a clock,” or “making money.”

Ministry is a calling. Setting clergy compensation should be an encouraging process rooted in generosity and wise stewardship by each congregation and each clergyperson.

What Should We Pay Our Pastor?

Rather than starting with a blank page, I would encourage Vestries to do some research.

One way is to think about comparable positions. Think about it this way – are there any other jobs that take into account the local cost of living, adequate education, and are not focused simply on profit?

The closest analog is the education sector.

I would encourage you to research compensation for educators in your area.

  • Look up what a local elementary school principal or high school science teacher makes.
  • How is the base adjusted for experience and additional education?
  • What does a similarly educated and experienced educator in our community make?
  • What kind of benefits are available to them?

Local school districts post their salary schedules. So, this should be easy to find out with a little bit of online research.

Does this seem reasonable and generous? If so, it’s easy to use this as a benchmark or standard for clergy compensation of the Rector / Vicar and even of other clergy and staff positions within the church.

You can also use the online resource ChurchSalary.

This isn’t free, but it’s another low-cost way to get some baseline data. You provide the staff position/role and your zip code, and they send you a report.

Beyond those general approaches, I want to look at some data and recommendations available within our Anglican family here in North America. Many of our dioceses provide suggestions/requirements for clergy compensation.

I want to look at three of these:

  1. the Anglican Diocese of the South,
  2. the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, and
  3. the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.

These are large, established dioceses that should be representative of best practices within the ACNA. What do we learn about clergy compensation when we look at their recommendations?

All of these compensation guides are rooted in the idea of a compensation package, rather than simply the salary amount.

For example, the ADOTS Rector Compensation Guidelines set forth 8 different elements of a compensation package for parishes to work toward. The first category is Salary & Housing allowance. It suggests looking up the salary for the local elementary school principal for a comparison figure based on the responsibility of the position and cost of living.

Beyond the base Salary & Housing Allowance Category, the ADOTS guide allows for medical insurance, retirement, holiday/vacation time, technology, mileage, an expense account, and continuing education and Sabbatical.

Let’s put these items in a list so we can take proper notice of them:

  1. Salary and Housing Allowance
  2. Medical Insurance
  3. Retirement Contribution
  4. Vacation Time Allowance
  5. Technology Allowance/Reimbursement
  6. Auto Mileage Reimbursement
  7. Ministry Expense Allowance
  8. Continuing Education and/or Planned Sabbatical Leave

The document also recommends that there be a written agreement between the Rector and the Vestry that is mutually reviewed and updated as needed annually.

This is a helpful reminder that clergy compensation is not just the base salary. It also sets forth the idea that this should be reviewed annually in conjunction with the annual adoption of the clergy housing allowance, which is good advice.

(This list is not a list of entitlements for any rector or priest. Nor is it a list of obligations that are owed by the parish. It is a list of items that should be part of an ongoing conversation between the Rector and Vestry. In future posts, I will drill down on each of these items.)

Both the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh set forth recommended minimum salary amounts.

The Diocese of South Carolina recommendations are focused on Rectors while the Diocese of Pittsburgh expands the scope to other clergy positions.

The Diocese of South Carolina has a tiered system for minimum compensation based on Average Sunday Attendance. For example, the minimum for a family-size congregation (0-50 ASA) is $56,022. At the top end, the minimum compensation for a corporate-size congregation (ASA 351+) is $88,035.

While there are other factors, it is clear that the congregation’s size is a key factor in clergy compensation based on responsibility, scope, and oversight.

Rather than focus on attendance, the Diocese of Pittsburgh adds two additional factors: budget and congregation setting. There are four annual budget categories and two congregational settings differentiating between metropolitan areas and more rural contexts.

The compensation package minimum for full-time clergy in a rural setting in a congregation with an annual budget under $250,000 is $65,000. The top-end range is a major metropolitan area with an annual budget of over $1,000,000. That figure is $89,600.

Some of the difference in salary range between Pittsburgh and South Carolina likely reflects cost of living. Wise vestries will look at ASA, annual budget, and congregational setting when setting the overall compensation package.

Does Our Pastor Need A Retirement Plan?

As part of the compensation package, vestries need to factor in a retirement plan.

I am worried about this because many of our smaller churches and younger clergy are not doing this yet because it is not a pressing, felt need. On the other end of the spectrum, we have many older clergy working past retirement age because they do not have the funds to retire.

We need to do better and make sure we are setting ourselves up for wise, long-term care in this area. All of the Diocesan handbooks mentioned above talk about including a retirement plan for compensation.

  • There is information on the ACNA website about the Provincial Retirement plan through Mass Mutual.
  • The Anglican Diocese of the South says congregations should contribute to a 401k or similar retirement plan on behalf of the Rector and mentions a reasonable standard of 10-15% of salary & housing.
  • The compensation worksheet from the Diocese of South Carolina gives a factor of 18% of salary & housing.
  • The Diocese of Pittsburgh recommends 10-18% of the cash compensation.

All of these dioceses point out that there may be a matching component and reminds vestries that the matching portion must legally be offered to eligible lay employees, also.

So, all three of these dioceses are unanimous in agreeing that clergy need a retirement plan. To that end, I would encourage bishops and vestries to make sure they are on the same page and these best practices are followed through on the ground in local parishes.

This is an area where it is understandably tempting to take a shortcut. But, it is part of the total package of clergy compensation.

Published on

October 24, 2019


David Roseberry

David Roseberry leads the nonprofit ministry, LeaderWorks. He was the founding rector of Christ Church, Plano, Texas, and is the author of many books. He lives in Plano with his wife, Fran.

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