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How Do Pastors Get Paid?

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Have you ever sat in church, lulled by the sound of your pastor's sermon, then suddenly wondered how much that pastor makes doing this job? And not just how much the pastor makes, but how he actually gets paid. Does he empty the silver trays of donations every Sunday and slide the money under his mattress?

No, of course not. But payment occurs in a variety of ways.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020 the average salary was $51,940 annually, or $25.00 hourly. Many are also provided with a free home or housing allowance if there isn't a rectory. In addition, pastors are often paid gratuities for performing basic church functions, such as weddings or funerals.

Annual Salary

Most pastors are paid an annual salary by their church. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 the average salary was $45,740 annually, or $21.99 hourly. This is the median. At the low end, members of the clergy earned only $23,830 annually, and the highest earning pastors earned $79,110. Also, some churches may be too poor to pay an annual salary to the pastor.

Pastors May Have Free Housing

Most pastors are provided with a rectory, a house owned by the church where they are able to live free of charge during their time as pastor of the church. This is an old practice, beginning in the 15th century, but it's especially a big perk if you live in a expensive city in the 21st century, such as Los Angeles or New York City.

Pastors May Receive a Housing Allowance

If your church doesn't have a rectory, it typically provides the pastor with a housing allowance. Sometimes called a parsonage allowance or a rental allowance, the great thing about this allowance is that it doesn't have to be claimed as income on federal income taxes. However, pastors must declare this allowance on their self-employment taxes.

Side Gigs

Pastors often earn extra money from congregants in the form of gratuities for performing standard church ceremonies, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals. While pastors perform these services as part of their job, in some churches there is an unspoken understanding of the fee for certain services. A wedding could bring in between $100 and $500, whereas a funeral might merit $100 to $300. It all depends on the church.

Many pastors also earn extra income by writing books or recording sermons, depending upon the size and popularity of their church. This is especially prevalent among preachers of mega churches.

Pastors don't typically go into the profession for the money, but you can earn a respectable living as a pastor and also follow your passion for religion and leading a community.


Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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