The pulpit isn’t the only place to preach the word of God. Many people are called to serve in other ways, such as missionaries. Missions cost a lot of money. As of 2012, religious organizations spent an average of $121,000 a year to send two people, namely couples, on mission work. But this number doesn’t cover just the salary of missionaries. Other expenses factor into the figure. (reference 2).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes missionaries as "other" religious workers. As of 2012, the average salary was $30,650 a year. (reference 1). The top 10 percent of earners made more than $50,510, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $17,610 annually. (reference 1). These figures, however, fail to break out pay by role. A survey by the Christian Reformed Church in North America provides a clearer picture of what career missionaries earn, estimating the average at $56,870 a year for a couple. (reference 2).
The average pay makes up only 47 percent of the total cost for missionary work. In addition to their base pay, missionaries may also receive subsidies. These subsidies cover the costs for missions in areas of the world where the cost of living is higher. In 2012, the average subsidy was $6,050 a year per couple, explains the CRCNA. (reference 2 – explanation of subsidy on pg. 3).
The salaries of missionaries aren’t usually used to cover housing expenses, largely due to the fact that they must pay their mortgages or rent in the States while away. On average, missionaries receive a stipend of almost $10,000 a year to cover the cost of their housing overseas. (reference 2). Of course, this varies by mission. A missionary ministering in an impoverished area isn’t likely to get as much as one in a wealthier area of the world.
Depending on the institution, missionaries receive other stipends. As of 2012, they received an average of almost $8,500 per couple to cover travel expenses. They’re also allotted roughly $10,890 to cover medical expenses, $8,470 to cover administrative expenses and another $8,470 to cover other incidentals. Besides expenses, missionary organizations pay into pensions at an average of $7,260 a year and into taxes at an average of $4,840 a year.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.