Worth Twice As Much?

I covet your comments here, especially if you are – or ever have been – an Associate Pastor and/or a Head of Staff/Senior Pastor.

What is your experience with salary disparity between Associate Pastors and Senior Pastors?  There is disparity, it seems, between male and female clergy.  Here‘s some research from The Episcopal Church about that.

There is disparity between pastors of small churches and pastors of large churches.  Check out this article.

But I’m very concerned about Senior Pastors who earn twice as much as their Associate Pastor colleagues.  Is a 50-something Head of Staff really that much more valuable or working that much harder than the 30-something Associate Pastor?  I get it that a pastor fresh out of seminary who has little or no experience preaching, teaching, offering pastoral care, or moderating meetings would earn less than a seasoned pastor at whose desk the buck stops.

But is it just and faithful to pay a Head of Staff $150,000/year while the Associate Pastor earns half that?  This is on my mind today.

What’s your experience?

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16 responses to “Worth Twice As Much?

  1. When I saw the title of this post on Twitter I knew what it was going to be about. Being an Ass. Pastor making half what the head of staff makes can make you feel pretty resentful at times.

    Having gone from an Associate to being a head of staff of a small/medium church, I now realize that the head of staff definitely does bear more weight and responsibility than an Associate, and I think they should be paid more because of that, but not twice as much.

  2. No. But I think we should find a way to divert the disparity toward paying pastors to serve churches that can’t afford presbytery minimums. It seems much more practical than continuing to turn out candidates who have been called by God but won’t be called by a congregation, even though there are congregations in need of their leadership.

  3. Cyndie Crowell

    I remember being fresh out of seminary, paying rent, having a very low salary (14k divided between me and my husband as co-assistant (remember them???) pastors) and the head of staff was making over 2x what we did and his darned mortgage was probably less that our rent. (of course that was in Upstate NY in the early 80′s) — it just didn’t feel good.

  4. Mary Marcotte

    Salaries.. Sigh… I then add into the mix immigrant pastors who work full time in the secular world to support their families so that they can have the privilege of serving a congregation/fellowship group. Our paradigm of ministry is changing rapidly and I hope/pray that our seminaries are keeping up. I am afraid I have my doubts……

  5. I served as an Associate with a female head of staff. I started out at Presbytery minimum (around $30k at the time), and she made around $50k. We frequently received 3% raises, which only widened the gap over the 6 years I was there.

  6. In your scenario, the associate is making $75,000. I seriously doubt it! I was an associate straight out of seminary and I definitely think heads of staff should make more, but not double or triple. I think mine made closer to triple my salary.

  7. Thank you for addressing this! Our senior minister makes $100k and our associate makes close to $17k. Their jobs are very different. The senior minister has the full time position and does ALL the Sunday and Wednesday preaching. The associate minister does none of the preaching and isn’t expected to be physically in the church during the week, but does some of the readings and does all of the home visits. Yes, there is a pay disparity. How do we suddenly cut back on the senior minister’s salary? We don’t have money to increase the associate without taking it from somewhere else.

  8. I think those with the most responsibility should make more. It’s the way it works in most places of business–and yes, the church is not a business, but most session members come from that model. I think twice the associate’s salary is irresponsible.

  9. In my first call, I was about $500 under the presbytery minimum. I was told by personnel chair that if I got pregnant that they would consider a raise. I never got that $500. They replaced me with a male pastor, a good friend- great pastor but with less experience…and he was brought in at $12,000 more. That was only 12 years ago.

  10. I’m not a pastor, but I have been appalled at the disparity in my home church – $175K to $70Kfor a couple of the associates (4 associates). I think the senior pastor is embarrassed about it, as well, but when I have brought it up in session or congregational meetings, I have basically had my say and then been ignored. The worst (to me) part of it, is when I’ve mentioned it to the associates, they have said “Well, that’s what I signed on for, and I’m not really concerned about it. I like my job. I’m still getting more than in a solo pastor, and I get to do the things I’m gifted for, instead of having to do everything.”
    And on the other hand, I find myself being a little resentful when I write my pledge, knowing the amount of money that’s being paid the pastors, when neither my husband nor I have EVER made more than $60K in a year.

  11. As a pastor/head of staff and one who has served as an associate, I completely agree that the gap can be much too large and that gender can influence congregations. I know there are I have worked so hard to educate and remind personnel committees and higher governing bodies about salary ranges and patterns and the importance of compensating based upon education and experience and to narrow the gap. I’m far more interested in being a good colleague than in earning a higher salary.

  12. It is pretty clear to me that while congregations want to believe that their pastors are called by God, the decision makers want move to market place models when they figure out how little they need to expend to pay their pastors. It is often their vocational training kicking in. Are we the gathered community of God that uses the wisdom of God or the wisdom of the world in our decision making?

  13. I can't put my name on this one...

    After 6 years as an Associate, I make about $2,000 more than when I started. The head of staff, who has 20 years of experience but has never stayed in a church longer than 4 years, came in making 50% more than me, which was significantly more than the PNC originally said they were willing to pay a new HoS, but he wouldn’t come for a more equitable salary. I do agree that they have more responsibility (at least on paper) and so should make more. though the reality looks different, at least for me–I work 50 hours a week (according to my original job description/terms of call, though the reality is sometimes more), while HoS’s terms of call specify 40 hours and he often is only available for about 20 of those.

  14. I have so much to say about this. I’m in my 1st call. I’m an AP (used to be 1 of 3 APs, now there are just 2 of us). I’ve been here 9 years.
    My head of staff (he never calls himself senior pastor) makes almost 3x what I make. The other AP (female), who has been here 21 years, makes almost 2x what I make.
    I agree- they both should be making more than me. HoS works a lot more hours than I do with a lot more responsibility. While I’d love his salary I would *not* want his job.
    But- when we get 3-5% raises most years I fall farther & farther behind. I know I shouldn’t complain because I’m in a good place, but it’s hard not to think about some days. It’s not so much the dollar amount as it is the principle. I feel certain I couldn’t be replaced right now with a 1st call pastor for what I’m getting now.
    Perhaps the good thing is that I may not feel the same pressure to work my tail off. I’m pretty good at taking time off. I’m rarely the one who gets the calls in the middle of the night. And I definitely don’t lose sleep over personnel, budget, stewardship -type issues like I might if I was HoS.

    I could go on and on about this, but that probably wouldn’t be appropriate here.
    I love the congregation I serve. I love my colleagues. My HoS is a wonderful supervisor, mentor and friend. But the numbers…

  15. I was an associate that made less than 50% of what the HoS made. Sure, it was a first call, and the HoS had been in ministry for a couple of decades and been at the church for about 10 years, but it’s like everyone’s been saying so far… 3-5% inflation adjustment widens the gap, and it felt like a bigger impact when personnel decided to forgo the increase one year. HoS and other associates probably did ok without the increase, especially with working spouses, but the 2 younger and single associates (which included me) felt it, especially when they cut our ConEd budgets to minimum and told us we still had to go somewhere and pay a conference fee for us to take that time, so ended up paying out-of-pocket for those expenses. The pastors were also expected to live in town and it was very expensive; members of the congregation wondered how we managed to lived in town from time to time because of what we got paid. But, we were paid much higher than presbytery minimum, and as much as some solo pastor or HoS’s of smaller congregations, so it felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of room to complain.

    • I’m still appalled and angered by that whole ConEd debacle, even if it was several years ago. Do you think they ever wonder why Associates left so frequently?

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