When it comes to a pastor's salary, a larger congregation equals a larger paycheck. While female pastors are becoming more common, women rarely lead church congregations in excess of 2,000 members. This translates into salaries that are considerably less than what your male counterparts make. When figuring pastor salaries based on congregation size, consider the church location and congregation income.
Paying the Pastor
A pastor's pay depends on the church congregation, and members pay their leaders in a number of ways. Some churches establish a yearly salary, while others expect their pastors to live off of other resources and only provide a small monthly stipend. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary of a clergy member at $47,880 per year, as of May 2012. But many pastors find ways to supplement their church's salary. Individual member donations, ceremony fees and guest speaking can all bring you extra money. By leading a larger congregation, you come across more of these money-generating opportunities.
Location, Location, Location
Consider location when determining a pastor's salary. The largest average salary for pastors is in Washington, D.C., according to the BLS. Pastors there earn an average annual salary of $66,760. You may expect this calculation simply reflects the area of the country with the largest church congregations, but it doesn't. The Christian publication "Outreach Magazine" publishes an annual list of the largest church congregations in the country. In 2013, not one of the 25 largest congregations was in Washington, D.C. Instead, the majority of the top churches on the list were in Texas, where the BLS lists the average salary as $46,640. While these top churches pay larger salaries, there are not enough of them to significantly affect the average earnings in the state.
The Congregation's Salary
Look at the income of the congregation when figuring the salary of the preacher. The website my-pastor.com suggests that churches pay their pastors a salary that reflects the average earnings of the congregation. Members want to see their pastors living at a level comparable to themselves. Pastors paid in excess of their members' average income may have a hard time relating to their financial struggles, while pastors paid less than the average income of the congregation may become bitter and not perform as expected.
A 2012 study by the Leadership Network identifies megachurches as those having congregations in excess of 2,000 members and weekend attendance in excess of 5,000 attendees. According to the study, the biggest factor in determining pastor salary is the church budget and worship attendance. The larger the congregation, the more money in the church budget. The study states that each additional 1,000 attendees generally result in the pastor's salary increasing by $8,000. For these megachurches, the majority of pastors make between $100,000 and $140,000, but the study reports salaries in excess of $265,000 for leaders at the largest churches.
Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.