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Ordained ABC Minister Comparisons

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

Each year MMBB (The Ministers & Missionaries Benefit Board) publishes a report which provides the average compensation of ordained American Baptist ministers organized according to regions. Across the entire denomination the average compensation (cash salary & housing benefit) reported on January 1, 2009 was $48,380. This represents an average increase of 2.21% over the prior year as reported on January 1, 2008.

As a minister you may be interested in how the ABCNW compares to other Regions in the ABC-USA.

There are 35 regional units. Some of these are mostly urban, such as Washington, D.C., New York Metro, Philadelphia Baptist Association and L.A. City Society. It should be no surprise that these have some of the highest average ministry compensations. Indeed Washington, D.C. tops the list with an average compensation of $73,786. However, the second highest compensation is the Region of the South with an average of $66,710.

ABC of the Northwest ranks 31st out of all Regions with an average compensation of $40,293.

This figure represents a meager increase of 0.53% over the prior year. We're fifth from the bottom. The lowest compensation is in the Dakotas with an average of $36,577. By comparison the average compensation in Oregon is $52,570. In Growing Healthy Churches (ABC West) the average is $57,478. And, in Evergreen Baptist Association the average is $53,745. EBA experienced an astounding 22.55% increase over the prior year in which the average was $43,855.

What does this tell us? One, is that on the whole churches in the ABCNW are struggling to pay ministers at the level they deserve. Second, we are a Region with many small churches in rural settings where economic conditions may be a challenge. I know of some churches that pay their pastor less than that of a starting school teacher, yet expect the pastor to work 50 to 60 hours a week. This is hardly fair. Other churches are generous, and are compensating their pastors as they should.

I would remind all that the Bible urges fair remuneration for those who work in the "field of the Lord." Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:7, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." The word "elder" may be translated as "minister" or "pastor" in that the church in Ephesus, about which Paul is writing to Timothy, was led by a team of elders. These elders worked diligently for the church, directing its ministries. They regularly preached and taught. Paul asserts that these ministers "are worthy of double honor." This is Paul's euphemistic way of saying "double pay." The work of a pastor is extremely important, and as such deserves compensation at such a level it would be considered twice the norm. In other words, it is right for a congregation to be generous, not stingy, as it compensates its pastor.

I once heard someone say that a pastor's salary should be equal to that of a High School Principal, or at least that of an Elementary School Principal. Given that the pastor operates in a myriad of roles, including that of leader. Given that the pastor must do significant research and provide a public talk every week based on that research. Given that most pastors have completed 7 years of higher education. And, given that working in the spiritual realm is highly significant work, I think this suggested guideline is defensible.

You should know that MMBB works with our Region in providing information regarding average compensations in specific locales. On request, MMBB will produce an analysis comparing churches of similar size in our Region. If you have need of this service please call the ABCNW office. We have done this for a good number of our churches. It's good to have MMBB as a partner in our ministry together.

Originally published 2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article previously appeared on Dr. Revis’ blog, on May 28, 2009]