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Guide to Negotiating
Pastor Compensation
1 | MMBB Financial Services
This publication discusses various forms of compensation and their federal tax implications only. It does
not cover local tax regulations, which dier from state to state.
This guide is not intended as a substitute for legal, accounting, or other professional advice. If legal, tax, or
other expert assistance is required, we recommend that you seek the services of a competent professional.
MMBB Financial Services is pleased to have the collaboration of the American Baptist Churches Ministers
Council Professional Eectiveness Committee in the development of this material.
You can download additional copies of this guide—and other helpful materials—at
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 2
Table of Contents
Introduction ...............................................................................3
Components of A Compensation Package .................................................4
Cash Compensation .......................................................................5
Housing/Parsonage Allowance ............................................................7
Benets ....................................................................................9
Flexible Spending Account (FSA) ........................................................11
MMBB Benet Oerings at a Glance .....................................................12
Paid Leave ...............................................................................13
Reimbursement of Job-Related Expenses ...............................................14
Steps for Agreeing on a Compensation Package ........................................16
Determining a “Fair Wage ...............................................................19
Break a Pattern of Discriminatory Compensation ........................................22
Approaching Negotiations with the Right Frame of Mind ...............................24
Tips for Constructive Negotiations .......................................................27
Bridging the Gap: When Your Church Cannot Aord to Pay a “Fair Wage ...............29
Additional Resources ....................................................................31
Contact Information .....................................................................33
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those
who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, ‘... the laborer deserves
to be paid.’”
1 Timothy 5:17–18
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A Guide for Ministers and
Congregational Leaders
Ministers and congregational leaders routinely collaborate on matters of faith, spiritual health, and the day-to-
day functioning of the congregation. Then—once a year—they address the sensitive issue of the minister’s
For 100 years, MMBB Financial Services has counseled churches and faith-based organizations on compensa-
tion and related matters. This guide oers you the benet of that experience. It is intended for both churches
and ministers, as well as for chaplains, pastoral counselors, and those in other forms of ministry.
This guide explains how the tax code treats dierent forms of compensation. It provides suggestions on how
to design a fair compensation package and how churches and ministers can negotiate constructively and
positively to reach a consensus. We believe that both benet from a deliberative process that brings everyone
to agreement on fair compensation.
The goals of a compensation package
You may nd it helpful to begin by considering the goals of a compensation package. A church should provide
its sta with adequate income so that they can fulll their roles without undue concern about current and
future nancial needs. Freedom from nancial anxiety lets a pastor focus on his or her service. It also helps your
church attract and retain qualied pastoral leadership.
A good compensation package is the fair thing to do. It compensates pastoral leaders for their investment in
education, as well as for their talent, experience, and eort. The benets and insurance components protect
both the minister and church from unexpected setbacks. They ensure that pastors receive support, even if they
are unable to fully carry out the churchs ministry.
Finally, a compensation package serves a managerial and motivational function. It can reward sta for meeting
agreed-upon goals.
“Respect those who labor among you and have charge of you in the Lord and
admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
i Thessalonians 5:12–13
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 4
Components of a Compensation Package
A compensation package has three components:
• Cash compensation includes the pastor’s cash salary and housing allowance, plus cash equivalents such as
the Social Security oset.
• A benets package often includes a retirement savings plan, life insurance, plus disability and health insurance.
It can also include a paid sabbatical. These contribute to an employee’s feeling of security and well-being.
• Reimbursement of job-related expenses include reimbursement for work-related travel, books, and
education. This helps ministers with the day-to-day costs of performing their responsibilities.
The way you allocate compensation between these three categories has a signicant impact on the taxes your
sta must pay. Read on as we describe each category in detail.
A sample $50,000 compensation package
Cash Compensation
Cash salary $15,000
Housing allowance $10,000
Social Security offset $3,800
Equity allowance $5,000
Retirement, plus life and disability insurance $4,400
Health insurance $10,000
Reimbursement for Job-Related Expenses
Auto allowance $650
Conventions $400
Hospitality $250
Subscriptions/books $200
Continuing education $300
Total: $50,000
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Cash Compensation
Cash compensation can include the following four components. Consider the tax implications of each
component as you design this part of the package.
1. Cash salary
A minister’s cash salary can be subject to federal, state, and local income taxes. It also serves as the basis for
calculating allowable retirement plan contributions.
• Increasing the cash portion of a compensation package will obligate the minister to pay more in taxes.
• Because employee-paid retirement plan contributions cannot exceed 100% of includable compensation (plus
any age 50 catch-up contributions), reducing cash salary can potentially limit a minister’s contribution to his or
her retirement plan. Few ministers set aside 100% of their salary for retirement, so this is a lesser concern.
Later in this guide, we explain how to determine a fair cash salary based on national averages and the
minister’s experience and qualications.
2. Housing/parsonage allowance
Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code allows ordained ministers to exclude from federally taxed income
some or all of the cost of providing their principal residence. For example, a minister receiving a cash salary of
$30,000 might have $5,000 of the cash amount designated as a housing or parsonage allowance. Only $25,000
would be considered taxable for federal income taxes.
This exclusion applies only to a minister’s federal income tax. The implications:
• Designating a larger portion of salary as a housing allowance will reduce a minister’s federal tax liability.
• But overestimating the housing allowance may cause a minister to underreport his or her taxable wages,
which could lead to an underpayment of taxes.
3. Social Security-Medicare tax oset
While ministers are employees for federal income tax reporting purposes, they are self-employed for Social Security
purposes with respect to services they perform in the exercise of their ministry. This “dual status” means they
are not subject to withholding requirements for the employee’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Instead, they pay a Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax.
Churches are not permitted to pay the SECA tax for their pastors; however, most churches assist ministers by
providing them with a Social Security/Medicare tax oset of at least 50% of the SECA tax. This provides an
equivalent of Social Security/Medicare taxes that the church would pay on behalf of a lay church worker.
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 6
4. Equity allowance for ministers living in a parsonage
Unlike homeowners, ministers living in parsonages do not build equity in their homes. Many churches help
compensate for that by paying an equity allowance that is not subject to federal income tax.
You can read more about the housing, parsonage, and equity allowances on the following pages.
Cash Compensation: Example
ACash salary $15,000
BHousing allowance $10,000
CSocial Security offset $3,800
DEquity allowance $5,000
Amount subject to federal tax: $18,800
Amount subject to state, local, and SECA taxes: $38,800
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Housing/Parsonage Allowance
Housing allowance
The housing allowance lets ordained sta deduct the cost of housing from income subject to federal taxes.
The amount of the allowance should cover the cost of maintaining a home: mortgage or rent payments, taxes,
repairs, insurance, furnishings, utilities, etc. For federal income tax purposes, the excludable amount of a
housing allowance is limited to the lesser of:
1. The amount designated by the church, or
2. The amount actually spent on housing by the minister for the year, or
3. The fair rental value of a furnished house, plus utilities such as gas, electricity, oil, telephone and water.
A minister cannot exclude more than his or her church designates, so the designated amount must at least be
enough to cover items 2 or 3 above. If the designated amount exceeds the lesser of item 2 or 3, the minister
must report the excess as taxable income.
A church must designate the housing allowance portion of a minister’s salary in advance of when that salary
takes eect. The minister is responsible for documenting actual housing expenses.
Housing Allowance Example
Designated by the church $22,000
Fair rental value of a furnished house, plus utilities $19,000
Actually spent on housing by the minister for the year $17,600
In this example, the church designated $22,000 of its minister’s salary as a housing allowance. A real estate agent’s
estimate of the rental value for a similarly furnished house came to $19,000, so the churchs designation was too high.
But when the minister added up her actual mortgage payments, utility, and maintenance costs for the year, the total
was even lower: $17,600. Since that is the least of the three amounts, the minister can only deduct $17,600 from her
federally taxable income.
Rental value of a parsonage
For a minister living in a parsonage, the church does not report the rental value or any utility costs paid or
reimbursed by the church as income for federal income tax purposes. However, the minister must count the
parsonage rental value, utilities, and parsonage allowance as income when calculating his or her SECA tax.
A church should base the rental value on what the parsonage could be rented for in the community. A local
real estate agent can help you determine this. Alternatively, your church can use 1% of the market value of the
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 8
parsonage. For example, if the parsonage market value is $100,000, the monthly rental value would be $1,000.
Consider annual adjustments to the parsonage rental value.
Your churchs accurate report of parsonage value helps MMBB determine death,
disability, and retirement benets
An accurate parsonage rental value does more than help a pastor save on taxes. Your church reports this
value, along with cash salary and utilities, to MMBB for Comprehensive Plan premium purposes.
If the reported rental value is less than the actual value of the parsonage, the minister’s death, disability,
and retirement benets will be lower. That can create considerable hardship if the member’s surviving
family must nd alternative housing.
The impact of underreporting (45-year-old member)
Compensation Death Benefit (4 times reported compensation)
Actual: $50,000 $200,000
Underreported: $45,000 $180,000 ($20,000 less)
Parsonage allowance
In addition to determining the parsonage rental value, your church can also designate a part of a minister’s
cash salary as a parsonage allowance. The parsonage allowance covers anything purchased by the minister to
maintain a home in the parsonage, such as furnishings or renter’s insurance. The amount of this allowance is
excluded from the minister’s taxable income to the extent that it can be justied by actual housing costs.
Equity allowance for ministers living in a parsonage
Unlike homeowners, ministers who live in parsonages usually do not have equity in their homes. This puts them at a
disadvantage when they approach retirement. They must seek housing while not having built up equity over the years.
Churches can help such ministers by providing an equity allowance in addition to the minister’s compensation.
There are several tax-advantaged ways to do this:
• The church can make contributions on behalf of the minister to the Retirement Only Plan, available from MMBB.
Retirement Only Plan contributions and earnings are not taxable to the minister until withdrawn in retirement.
• A minister may choose to supplement the equity allowance by starting or increasing contributions to The An-
nuity Supplement (TAS). Contributions are excluded from Social Security/Medicare taxes for ordained ministers.
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There are four general categories of benets:
A good benets program is essential for maintaining employee health and morale. There are also tax advantages
for employees. Employers generally oer four categories of benets:
• Retirement savings
• Life insurance
• Disability insurance
• Health insurance
A church should oer all four benets to protect the institution in case the unexpected occurs. You also want to
protect ordained sta so that they can fulll their ministry knowing that they and their family will be cared for.
Retirement savings
By helping your sta build assets for the future, a retirement savings plan gives them condence that helps
them better fulll their ministry. It also assures you that they will not have to work beyond the point where
they —or you—want them to.
To fully appreciate the importance of saving for retirement, consider the following:
• According to data compiled by the Social Security Administration, a man retiring today at age 65 can expect
to live to age 83. A woman can expect to live to age 85. And those are just averages – one in ten 65-year-olds
can expect live past age 95. That means their retirement savings must last 18 to 30 years.
• Financial advisors generally assume that a retiree will need 70-80% of his or her pre-retirement income. So a
pastor earning $50,000 a year at retirement may need $35,000-$40,000 a year … for 18 to 30 years.
• A rough rule of thumb recommends that retirees in their mid-60s should have 20 times their targeted in-
come in savings . The pastor in the above example would need $700,000-$800,000.
A well-structured retirement plan can help build up the necessary savings. The tax advantages of 401(k) plans,
403(b) plans, and traditional IRAs are similar. Amounts contributed today are excluded from current taxable
income. Taxes on the invested amount, along with any investment growth, are deferred until the funds are
withdrawn during retirement years.
Guide To Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 10
Once you have decided to oer a retirement savings plan, usually a 403(b) plan for churches, you must decide
how to structure it. Will your church contribute a percentage of each employee’s salary? Will you have a match-
ing plan to encourage employees to save? A good benet plan provider can help you with these decisions.
Life insurance
The death of a loved one is traumatic enough without the added anguish of not knowing how surviving family
members will meet their expenses. A life insurance plan oers vital protection against economic catastrophe. It
also makes it easier for your church to support the family without undermining the churchs ministry.
Your church can provide up to $50,000 worth of life insurance coverage without tax consequences to the
employee.3 The value of church-paid life insurance over $50,000 does have to be reported as taxable income.
Most employer-provided insurance is oered as group term life. When insurance is purchased through a group
plan, the premium is almost always lower than what an individual would pay for a private policy.
Disability insurance
People often think that only older workers become disabled. But even young and healthy workers are at risk of
becoming disabled from a car accident, sports injury, or other occurrence.
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, a 35 year-old male oce worker with some outdoor physical
responsibilities faces a one-in-ve chance of being disabled for 90 days or longer before he retires. A 35-year-old
woman faces a one-in-four risk. For such workers, the average length of disability is six years and nine months.
A disability insurance policy provides replacement income. It allows your church to continue its ministry by
freeing resources that might otherwise be required to support the disabled minister.
Employer-paid premiums for disability insurance are not taxable for employees. They only pay taxes on income
paid by the policy after they are disabled.4 As with employer-sponsored life insurance, group disability cover-
age is usually less expensive than an individual policy.
Health insurance
Like it or not, our current health insurance system gives signicant preference to employer-provided health
insurance plans. For most employees, group health insurance costs less than a private policy.
Under Internal Revenue Code sections 105 and 106, employer-provided health benets, including claims
reimbursements and insurance, are generally excluded from taxable employee income.
As more provisions of the Aordable Care Act (healthcare reform) take eect, new limits and requirements apply.
You can stay up to date by visiting and searching “healthcare reform.” Or go to
3 The Benet of Benets,” NACBA Ledger 31, Summer 2012
4 The Benet of Benets,” NACBA Ledger 31, Summer 2012
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Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
While technically not a form of compensation, a Flexible Spending Account lets your church oer tax savings
to employees who must pay for health and dependent care expenses.
Each year, employees elect how much to set aside from their paychecks for the coming year, subject to IRS limits.
The withheld funds are not reported as taxable income for federal income tax or Social Security/Medicare tax. In
most states, FSA contributions are not reported for state income tax purposes either. When an employee incurs
an eligible expense, he or she submits documentation to the employer and is reimbursed with tax-free funds.
Your church can set up FSAs for health care, dependent care, or both.
• A health care FSA can be used to pay for eligible medical, dental, vision and hearing expenses.
• A dependent care FSA can be used to pay for care for a dependent child or a dependent adult who is
incapable of self-care.
Under IRS rules, unspent FSA funds cannot be carried over from year to year. Any funds not used to reimburse
claims by the end of the following year’s 2½ month5 grace period are forfeited and returned to the employer.
That said, employees with even a modest level of predictable health care or dependent care spending can
save a signicant percentage by paying for it with pre-tax dollars.
An FSA must be established in writing. Contact MMBB at for a free FSA sample kit.
Or call MMBB at 800.986.6222.
5 http://orpebb.asi
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 12
MMBB Financial Services Benet Oerings
at a Glance
For more than 100 years, MMBB has specialized in providing retirement and health benets to
faith-based organizations. We work with your church to tailor a exible benets package that ts
your budget. Call 800.986.6222, or send an email to, to arrange to speak with
one of our Senior Benets Consultants.
MMBB benet oerings and support services
Comprehensive Plan
• Flexible investment options that provide lifetime income in retirement. The housing allowance is
available for clergy in retirement. Based on a 2010 survey, MMBB members receive an average of
86% of pre-retirement when they annuitize, including Social Security.
• Disability insurance coverage includes an annual cost of living adjustment, continued retirement
contributions and a monthly allowance for dependent children under 21.
• Term life insurance includes survivor income for spouses and child allowances for dependent
children under 21.
Retirement Only Plan
• You—the employer—set the contribution rate as a percent of salary or xed dollar amount.
You can even make one-time contributions such as tax-deferred thank you gifts.
• You can create a matching plan to encourage your sta to participate. The plan can be changed
over time.
• In most instances, you can provide dierent benets to dierent classications of employees.
• The housing allowance is available for clergy in retirement.
Employee Contribution Plan
• Employees can contribute on a pre-tax basis through easy payroll deduction.
• Pre-tax saving defers federal income taxes on your contributions until you begin receiving
benets in retirement.
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Paid Leave
Paid leave is an employee benetbut typically not given a dollar value.
Most compensation packages typically specify how much paid leave a minister can take. Since this doesn’t
increase or reduce the pastors salary, the dollar value is generally not stated. Still, you can increase or reduce
this part of the compensation package as part of your negotiations.
Paid sick leave—Most churches establish a certain number of days per year for sick leave. Ten days per year is
a common option. Most pastors work more than enough hours to compensate for any days o due to illness.
You may or may not include the option to carry over unused sick days from one year to the next. If you do, we
recommend limiting that to no more than one years worth of accumulated sick days.
Paid holidaysThe Forth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc.. Pastors must
often work on holidays and it is appropriate to allow them days o in lieu of the actual holiday date. It is recom-
mended that unused paid holidays not be carried over from one year to the next. Such “comp” days should be
used within one month of the holiday.
Paid vacations—Generally negotiated by the Pastoral Search Committee or other church board in the hiring
process. A typical starting point would be three weeks in the rst year of service. It is recommended that you
limit the carryover of vacation time by establishing a bank of vacation leave that does not exceed 1½ years of
accumulated vacation days at any time.
Additional paid days—Paid time for working with ministerial organizations, jury duty, military training, bereave-
ment and advanced education are all items to consider. Establish a limit of paid days to limit church liability.
Paid sabbaticalThis benet can be tailored to ensure value to the church (e.g., requiring the pastor to
remain with the church for a certain period of time post-sabbatical, or to share learnings from the sabbatical
through special programs).reimbursement of job-related expenses.
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 14
Reimbursement of Job-Related Expenses
Church sta are often expected to make home visits, represent your church at conferences, entertain guests, and
develop professionally through continuing education. It is important that you budget for and reimburse these
items separately from compensation. Otherwise, your sta will have to pay taxes on the reimbursed amounts.
The key is to reimburse business expenses through an accountable plan. Under this arrangement, ministry-
related expenses are not reported as taxable income on the employee’s Form W-2 or Form 1040. At the same
time, the employee cannot claim these expenses as tax deductions.
Requirements for an accountable plan
• Expenses must be incurred while performing services as an employee of the organization.
• The employee must provide documentary evidence of the expense. This can be an auto mileage recording
work-related use of a personal car or receipts to verify expense amounts, plus a notation of the time, place,
and professional purpose for each expense.
• Expenses must be reported and substantiated within 60 days of when they occurred.
• An accountable plan cannot be funded through salary reduction. The reimbursements must be over and
above any salary paid to employee, from a spending category that is listed in your church budget.
• Excess reimbursement not spent must be returned. Otherwise, it becomes taxable income.
Your church must pass a resolution establishing an accountable plan
The IRS requires the church board to pass a formal resolution creating an accountable plan. The plan
policy should be in writing and clearly specify which expenses the church will reimburse. State the
documentation and reporting requirements. You may use the following sample wording:
RESOLVED, That, in addition to compensation paid to our (pastor/sta), we will reimburse
(him/her/them) for automobile and other ministry-related expenses considered ordinary and
necessary to carry out (his/her/their) responsibilities. Expenses must be substantiated as to
the date, amount and purpose within 60 days after they are incurred, or they will not be re-
imbursed. Any excess reimbursements must be refunded to the church within 120 days after
expenses are paid or incurred.
15 | MMBB Financial Services
Allowable reimbursable expenses
• Business-related travel and automobile use
• Hospitality
• Conference attendance
• Continuing education
• Subscriptions/books/periodicals
• Fees and dues for professional associations, such as the ABC Ministers Council
• Work-related cellphone use
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 16
Steps for Agreeing on a Compensation Package
Begin by forming a Pastoral Relations Committee
A crucial rst step in developing a compensation package is forming a Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC). This
committee provides a channel for your minister or pastoral sta to communicate openly about their needs.
The committee can then conduct the necessary research, work with the minister to design an acceptable
package, and advocate for fair compensation.
Size of the PRC
A PRC should be relatively small, three to seven people. This is large enough to foster group interaction and
small enough to encourage wide participation. Another reason to have a small group is the importance of
maintaining a high trust level and ensuring condentiality.
Selecting PRC members
Given the sensitive nature of the PRC, it is better to select its members by appointment rather than through
formal nominating and election processes. You might ask the minister to provide a suggested list of names to
the chairperson of the board. Then, in mutual consultation between the minister and chairperson of the board,
make your nal selections.
Member qualications
First and foremost, PRC members are people with whom the pastor has a good relationship. Important charac-
teristics include:
• People who are supportive of the minister and sensitive to the feelings and needs of both the congregation
and minister
• Good listeners
• People skilled in human relations and communication
• People who have integrity with regard to maintaining condentiality
• Both men and women of mixed ages
It is best not to have the current chair of the board on the PRC. Nor is it desirable to include members of other
committees or church departments simply because they represent those groups. You are not attempting to
represent the entire church in this small committee. If input is needed from other groups, the PRC can invite
representatives to its meeting and excuse them after a particular topic has been covered.
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Steps for Agreeing on a Compensation Package
As the Pastoral Relations Committee conducts its research, give some thought to your expectations regarding a
fair compensation package. Refer to the Compensation Handbook for Church Sta (described earlier) and other
ndings of the PRC. Make sure the PRC is aware of factors that might justify increases beyond the average salary
for a pastor in your situation:
• Additional experience or degrees acquired since the last salary negotiations
• Performance goals that have been met
• Additional responsibilities that have been assumed
• History of past raises, if those have been limited due to budget constraints
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 18
Steps for Agreeing on a Compensation Package
Once the Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) has conducted its research, it should work with the minister to
design a fair and viable compensation package. See the previous sections of this guide for tips on optimizing
the mix of taxable and tax-advantaged compensation. Also see the sections that follow on how to approach
negotiations with a constructive frame of mind.
Now is also a good time to agree upon severance compensation. The church and minister can discuss the matter
objectively, free of passions that may arise when actual departure is imminent. Here are two possible formulas:
• One to two weeks of pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks
• Half a month of salary for each year of service (e.g., 5 years of service = 2.5 months of severance pay)
Once a compensation package is agreed upon, present it to the nance committee and/or to the congrega-
tion. Then incorporate it into your churchs annual budget.
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How to Determine a “Fair Wage
Earlier in this guide, we discussed the components a compensation package should include. How do you
know if the package you’ve designed is reasonable and fair? Compare it with those of thousands of other
church workers nationwide.
Based on a national survey and updated each year, The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta provides
reliable compensation breakdowns for part-time, bi-vocational, and full-time church sta. It presents survey data
from more than 4,600 churches representing nearly 8,000 sta members. It also adjusts for church size, budget,
and geographical setting. Compensation proles are broken down by categories so that you can compare:
• Salary
• Retirement benets
• Health insurance coverage
• Housing/parsonage allowance
• Life insurance benets
• Continuing education
• The proled positions include, but are not limited to:
• Senior Pastor
• Associate Pastor
• Executive/Administrative Pastor
• Youth Pastor
• Adult Ministry Director
• Non-ordained
You’ll nd compensation levels based on personnel characteristics that include years employed, denomination,
region, and education level. This lets you compare your plan to other churches that have similar attributes and
The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta is updated annually and can be ordered
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 20
The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta provides a worksheet for each sta position. Enter your church’s data
in the rst column. Then check the reference tables to nd the highest/lowest, median/average compensation for
comparable positions. Your goal is not to come up with a single number, but rather to identify a compensation
range. Once that range is determined, a variety of factors will aect the nal level of compensation.
Example: Senior Pastor Worksheet
Enter Your
Church Data
The 2012-2013
Compensation Handbook
for Church Staff
Enter Compensation Handbook Data Below
Highest 25% Median Lowest 25% Average
Church Income $850,000 Table 4-1 Page 34 $114,000 $97,976 $85,225 $100,031
Worship Attendance 475 Table 4-2 Page 35 n/a $89,470 n/a $91,682
Church Settings (metro, suburban,
small town, or farming area)
Suburb of
a large city Table 4-3 Page 36 n/a $89,000 n/a $93,450
Region Pacific Table 4-4 Page 37 n/a n/a $89,428
Person’s Education Masters Table 4-5 Page 38 n/a $78,631 n/a $82,250
Years Employed 10 years Table 4-6 Page 39 n/a $79,000 n/a $80,077
Denomination (if applicable) n/a Table 4-7 Page 40 n/a $n/a $
1 Worksheets in The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta help you determine a median range of
compensation plus benets.
Determine how your pastor’s compensation should t within the range
After establishing a range for base compensation plus benets, determine where your pastor’s compensation
should t within that range. Refer to the tables and adjust for:
• Church income, worship attendance, and setting (urban/rural)
• Pastor’s years of service, education
Plus additional circumstances such as:
• Cost of living in your area/local economy
• Pastoral performance, workload
• Goodwill
• History of previous raises for the pastor and other sta
1 Pg. 17 of CompHandbook 2012-13_nal_forcd.pdf
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If your church is multi-staed, you may want to set compensation as a percentage of the senior minister’s pay. For example:
• A sta person responsible for planning, developing, and leading ministries across a broad spectrum of
congregational life might receive 75% to 85% of the senior minister’s compensation.
• Someone responsible for one or two aspects of congregational life and requiring minimal supervision might
earn 70% to 80% of that base.
• Someone with entry-level skills requiring substantial supervision might receive 65% to 75% of a senior
minister’s compensation.
After conducting its research and making the appropriate adjustments, the PRC should share its information
with the pastor(s).
MMBB provides additional compensation information for ABC churches
For added perspective on national averages in the Compensation Handbook for Church Sta, MMBB
provides annually updates on average and median compensation for each ABC region, as well as for the
nation as a whole.
Your church can also ask MMBB to conduct a customized compensation study of pastors at churches like
yours within your region. The report will list the high, low, median, and average compensation.
For a copy of the annual update, or a custom compensation analysis request form, call 800.
986.6222 or email
Alternative rules of thumb for determining a fair wage
If you and your pastor want an alternative to basing compensation on national averages, some
churches base their pastor’s salary on the average wage in their community for:
• The CEO of a non-prot organization
• A school principal
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 22
Break a Pattern of Discriminatory
The average salary for female pastors tends to skew lower because more women than men serve small church-
es. Nevertheless, female pastors earn 19% less then male pastors with similar levels of education and years of
employment. Their annual salary increases are 28% lower, on average.
As a center for teaching fairness and equality, your church should lead by example. Compensate your sta
fairly, regardless of gender.
Data Distribution* Male Female
Average weekend worship attendance 401 232
Average church income $710,389 $489,019
Average # of years employed 10 9
Average # of paid vacation days 22 25
% College graduate or higher 92% 94%
% Who receive auto reimbursement allowance 63% 56%
% Ordained 100% 100%
% Supervise one or more people 97% 100%
Average % salary increase (for those who had an increase) this year 4.3% 3.1%
Base Salary Median $43,567 $39,594
Average $46,877 $41,572
Housing Median $25,000 $17,000
Average $27,025 $22,921
Parsonage Median $12,000 -
Average $14,167 -
Total Compensation Median $67,044 $50,500
Average $71,083 $57,517
Source: The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Sta
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1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Set pastoral goals for the year Give pastor feedback on
progress toward goals
PRC gathers data in
preparation for negotiating
Agree on compensation,
incorporate into church budget
for coming year, report to MMBB
Report compensation changes to MMBB
Once a compensation change is approved, report the change and its eective date to MMBB within one
month. A member’s retirement income, disability, and death benets are all based on reported compen-
sation. Failure to report changes could result in lower benets to your minister and his or her family.
To report the change, complete MMBB’s Compensation Change Request form, which you can obtain
by calling 800.986.6222. Submit the completed form to:
Attn: Billing Department
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1700
New York, New York 10115
Or fax (Attn: Billing) to 800.986.6782
You can also fax your change notice to 800.986.6782 (Attn: Billing) or email it to
Recommended Timetable for Negotiating Compensation
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 24
Approaching Negotiations with the Right Frame
of Mind
Pastors must learn to be their own advocates
While it is hoped that concerned members of the congregation will be committed to providing you with fair
and adequate compensation, you as a pastor must also advocate for yourself. Remember that you have a right
and responsibility to negotiate your own compensation.
Your advocacy need not be combative, hostile, or demanding. Instead, approach negotiation as a positive
activity to be done in a manner that encourages:
• A fair and adequate compensation plan
• A decision based on facts: your goals, achievements, education, and responsibilities, plus a comparison to
national averages
• A healthy and candid pastor and church relationship
• A stronger witness and mission of your church
Don’t leave decisions that aect your compensation to chance. Even well-meaning people need your input.
Don’t feel obligated to leave the room when your compensation is discussed. It is important to negotiate face-
to-face so that everyone knows why the compensation decision is what it is.
The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living
by the gospel.
Corinthians 9:14
25 | MMBB Financial Services
Four common misconceptions when pastors negotiate their salary
“Congregants will dislike me if I request a higher salary.
People appreciate honesty and would rather know how a pastoral leader is feeling than deal with
unexpressed frustration. Ministers cannot have healthy relationships in a church when they carry a
burden of undisclosed hostile feelings.
When money issues do emerge, they are usually not the root problem, but a symptom of other issues
that should be investigated. People pay more attention to what you do than the salary you request.
“I’m a proclaimer of the gospel, I shouldn’t be preoccupied with such material concerns.”
The scripture acknowledges time and again that church leaders must be cared for and compensated
for their labor. Paying a fair wage is one way your congregation acknowledges that it respects its own
ordained leaders. While being silent and passive is a negotiating option, it can cause your feelings to
emerge in defensive, ways that are counterproductive to doing God’s work.
“My church is poor. It can’t aord to do better.”
To test this theory, check The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta and see what churches like
yours are currently paying. Congregants rarely openly discuss their personal nances. Your perception
may not align with the reality.
“The church’s mission giving will go down if my salary goes up.
It is better for a church to support its own ministry than to sacrice the pastoral leader’s salary for
wider mission giving. Your churchs rst priority is to appropriately provide for its members and pas-
toral leaders. They are essential for church growth and eective mission giving. You can also test this
theory by checking The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta.
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 26
Three common misconceptions when churches negotiate pastors salary
“We can pay less because the pastors spouse is a high earner.
Nowhere else in the working world are employee salaries reduced to account for spousal earnings.
Your minister’s eorts are worth no less when his or her spouse earns a good income. A fair wage
should be based on national averages reported in The Compensation Handbook for Church Sta and
adjusted only for your churchs environment and the pastor’s qualications.
“We can pay less because the pastor has modest needs.”
Pastors who live modestly may still need to care for family members. They may have plans for travel or
unpaid service during retirement. A church has no right to pay a less-than-fair wage simply because it
does not know how the pastor will spend the money.
“We’ll just oer a total compensation amount and let the pastor decide how to allocate it.
A common mistake that distorts the actual amount a pastor will have for living expenses is to propose
a single large gure that covers salary, benets, and expenses. This forces the pastor to choose be-
tween accepting lower take-home pay, waiving essential benets, or paying expenses out of pocket.
As you have seen earlier, the various forms of compensation serve dierent purposes and have dif-
ferent tax implications. It takes considerable thought to develop an optimal mix. It is unfair to make
ministers do this on their own.
Church leadership is responsible for paying a fair wage and retaining
talented leadership
The Word of God is specic when it says that laborers are worthy of their hire. This means churches should give
the maximum amount of support to their pastors, without jeopardizing the overall nancial stability of the
church. That is not always easy during dicult economic times. But the right thing isn’t always the easiest. If
church nances make it dicult to pay what you should, see the section later in this guide on “bridging the gap.
27 | MMBB Financial Services
Tips for Constructive Negotiations
Your church and minister will need to work together after the salary negotiations. Conduct them in a spirit of
good will that avoids rancor and ensures a positive outcome.
Negotiation tips for a minister
Begin the session with a prayer. But don’t make the prayer an opening statement of your position! Pray that
God’s spirit will lead all present in the discussion (rather than praying that God will open their eyes to the
inadequacy of your previous compensation package).
Know what you want and what you absolutely need, and prioritize your requests. It is important to have
thought through these matters before the negotiation begins. Seeming unprepared diminishes your credibil-
ity. (“How important can this be? He didn’t even know what he wanted.)
Whenever possible, point out the positive impact your requests will have on you and the churchs ministry. We
are all partners in ministry. Money and ministry are connected.
Three criteria for successful negotiations
• They should be ecient, stay on the subject, and not become sidetracked.
• They should improve, or at very least not damage, the relationship between parties.
• They should lead to a mutually acceptable win-win agreement.
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 28
Negotiation tips for all participants
Educate the decision makers on the components of a compensation package and the principle of basing
salaries on national averages. Share your research on compensation comparisons and try to have objective
discussions based on facts.
Be an active listener and try to understand the logic of others’ positions. Many negotiations have broken
down over minor points because people simply didn’t understand what their negotiating partners wanted or
needed. Restate your understanding of your counterpart’s position. It will help you gain added credibility.
Try not to put your negotiating partners on the defensive. (“You might let your family live in a house like that,
but I’d never do it to anyone I loved!”) It prevents people from listening and encourages them to dig in rather
than admit wrongdoing or guilt. Instead, state your position in objective terms. (“The parsonage is lovely in the
summer. But the uninsulated walls and 40-year-old heating system make it hard to keep the temperature in the
winter above 65 degrees.) Be hard on the problem; be soft on people.
Be realistic in your expectations. You may not be able to achieve all your goals all at once. Expect to give up on
some requests and compromise on others.
Be willing to take a leap of faith. Sometimes the other side needs to see a gesture of good will before they will
soften their position.
You’ll nd additional resources for successful negotiation at the end of this guide.
Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
Galatians 6:6
29 | MMBB Financial Services
Bridging the Gap: When Your Church Cannot
Aord to Pay a “Fair Wage
It may happen that your church determines a fair wage—based on its situation and the minister’s qualications
– but church nances are such that it cannot aord to pay that. Here are some suggestions of creative ways to
“bridge the gap.
Increase the proportion of tax-advantaged compensation
Without increasing the total compensation amount, your church may be able to increase the minister’s take-
home pay. Consider shifting compensation to such tax-advantaged forms as retirement plan contributions, a
housing allowance, or an increased expense allowance.
Realize that each side has multiple interests
You’ve seen that compensation takes many forms. Take time to understand the other side’s multiple interests
and you may nd other ways to help even the balance. For example, you might say, “Our church cannot aord
the annual increase you requested. But since one of your problems is cash ow early in the year until you’ve
paid your medical insurance deductible, can we restructure your salary schedule so that 60% is paid during
the rst half of the year?” Or, “In lieu of the higher salary increase, how about the lower amount, plus covering
medical deductibles?”
Supplement the minister’s salary with other forms of compensation
Cash is not the only solution. You can enrich your compensation package by adding such non-cash elements as:
• A paid sabbatical
• Church payment of the minister’s continuing education
• More paid leave
The dollar value of the package won’t necessarily be a lot higher. But it may be a better arrangement overall.
Agree on a catch-up schedule
If you’re condent that your church is only experiencing a temporary setback, consider specifying—in writing—
how you will make it up to your pastor with future salary increases. Just be sure that you can follow through on
this promise. Failing to deliver in the future will add feelings of betrayal on top of a salary grievance. (If at any
point the amount paid exceeds what was reported to MMBB, contact MMBB to make up back payments of
Comprehensive Plan premiums.)
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 30
Reconsider the pastor’s responsibilities
If your church cannot compensate the minister fairly for all the work he or she is doing, you may want to
consider reducing the minister’s responsibilities. Many smaller churches are able to manage with a part-time or
bi-vocational pastor. Or they reduce the pastor’s workload by providing lay assistance with certain tasks.
Myth: “Part-time pastors aren’t real pastors.
Churches concerned that they can only aord a part-time pastor should realize that this is a perfectly
viable option. Christian ministry has a long and rich history of implementation by part-time leadership.
The early Christian church grew out of multi-vocational leaders.
While multi-vocational ministry can be fullling and challenging, it is best to begin by setting clear
1. Write a letter of understanding that clearly describes:
• Ministry expectations and the number of days per week for service
• Supplemental pay when circumstances require service beyond the agreed-upon days per week
• Financial arrangements
• Accommodations, if there is no parsonage
2. Do not change the arrangements midstream without mutual agreement.
3. Ensure that there is a clear plan for growth.
No pastor or church should settle for a non-growth environment. Even if the possibility of a full-time
position seems remote, establish a vision and mission for further development. If your church does not
really want to change, then the pastor should be told this before responding to a call.
Additional Resources
• MMBB Church Finances & Administration. Your online guide to church nances and benets administra-
tion, including descriptions of MMBB benets oerings.
• ThePastoralRelationsCommittee, prepared and published by the United Church of Christ Parish Life and
Leadership Ministry Team. Suggested policies, principles, and procedures that may enhance the work of the
Pastoral Relations Committee.
• SuggestedMinisterChurchAgreement. A “covenant making” tool for American Baptist congregations and
ministerial leaders to use during the process of extending a call of ministry to a new leader. Helps establish
and maintain a healthy relationship between the congregation and leader by making clear and specic the
terms and benets of employment.
• FederalReportingRequirementsforChurches, by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA. These payroll report-
ing requirements apply, in whole or in part, to almost every church. Yet many churches do not fully comply
with them. Visit and search “reporting requirements.”
• Website of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Click on “Browse Topics” for succinct
posts covering various aspects of negotiation and conict resolution.
31 | MMBB Financial Services
• TheCompensationHandbookforChurchSta, by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA, published by
Christianity Today International (updated annually). Based on survey data from more than 4,600 churches
representing nearly 8,000 sta members, this guide provides reliable compensation breakdowns for part-time
and full-time church sta. Visit the employment section of
• TheEssentialGuidetoChurchFinances, by Richard J. Vargo and Vonna Laue (2009). How to strategize,
organize, measure, communicate, protect and audit your church nancials. Covers planning and budgeting,
church nancial reports, performance measurements and church audits. Visit the employment section of
• GettingtoYes:NegotiatingAgreementWithoutGivingIn, by Roger Fisher and William Ury (2011). Oers a
proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conict. Based on the
work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a group that deals with all levels of negotiation and conict resolution.
• DicultConversations:HowtoDiscussWhatMattersMost, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila
Heen (2010). From the Harvard Negotiation Project, a step-by-step approach to having tough conversations
with less stress and more success. Learn how to decipher the underlying structure of every dicult conversa-
tion, start a conversation without defensiveness, and move from emotion to productive problem-solving.
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 32
Contact Information
MMBB Financial Services
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1700
New York, NY 10115-0049
Tel: 800.986.6222 Fax: 800.986.6782
ABCUSA Ministers Council
PO Box 851
Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851
Tel: 610.768.2334
Christianity Today
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
Tel: 630.260.6200
National Association of Church
Business Administration
100 N. Central Expressway, Suite 914
Richardson, TX 75080-5326
Tel: 800.898.8085
Source: Edward Koren / The New Yorker Collection
33 | MMBB Financial Services
Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation | 34
The Ministers and Missionaries Bene ts Board
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1700
New York, NY 10115-0049
Tel: 800.986.6222
Fax: 800.986.6782
Produced in collaboration with the Ministers Council
of the American Baptist Churches, USA.
© 2013 MMBB Financial Services COMP0313

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