Pastors of small congregations are usually responsible for a broader range of duties than pastors of larger congregations. They often perform menial tasks that the pastor of a larger church would assign to another paid staff member. Salaries of such pastors, however, typically reflect not so much what they do as the number of people in regular attendance and their economic circumstances, which affects their ability to give.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Statistics, the median income for clergy in May 2009 was $46,960 and the range of incomes was $22,940 to $75,320. A study conducted in 1999 by the Hartford Institute for religious research found that pastors of congregations in connectional denominations earned 15 percent more than pastors of congregational churches. Connectional denominations, such as United Methodist and Lutheran, are governed by centralized leadership. Congregational churches are autonomous, and the decision to hire a pastor is made within the congregation.
A small congregational church can often receive aid from its denominational organization to pay pastors an appropriate salary. For example, the North American Mission Board, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, supports pastors and mission personnel that plant new churches. Independent, nondenominational churches with large congregations also aid smaller churches through mission programs.
Denominations with national organizations usually offer affordable health insurance, life insurance, and retirement planning. Some churches offer a housing allowance or a parsonage. Pastors are often reimbursed for expenses such as clothing, gasoline, travel and entertainment.
A study conducted by LifeWay Research in 2008 concluded that church membership has the greatest impact on pastors’ salaries in the Southern Baptist Convention. According to Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, “each additional weekly attendee at a church increases, on average, a full-time senior pastor's annual compensation (salary and housing) by $34. Each additional church member increases compensation on average almost $6.”
Pastors that work for congregations without the resources to pay a suitable salary sometimes opt to get an additional job. A pastor who works in a part-time capacity may need to assign duties such as organization of church functions, maintenance of the building and record keeping to laypersons in the church.
“Christianity Today” offers some creative tips to help small congregations improve its pastor’s benefit package: Offer an extra week of vacation, a sabbatical or trips to retreats and conventions. Members of the congregation may help by offering to babysit, donating air miles or time share properties, providing tickets to entertainment events or supplying services in areas of expertise.