Study of the Feasibility of Research on Clergy Compensation

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Sun, 01/01/1995

Smith's research sought to address recurring issues related to clergy compensation. How well and fairly are clergy compensated? How much should congregations be willing to pay a qualified minister? How comparable is clergy compensation within and between denominations? Smith drew on information provided by the American Baptist Churches, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. Data were collected since 1994 and 15,000 congregations formed the basis of the study. Overall, the Episcopal Church provides the highest average base compensation (salary and housing) at all levels. Lutheran clergy are the second highest paid, followed by the Unitarian Universalists and the United Methodists. The United Church of Christ, the Christian Church, and the American Baptist Churches have the lowest compensation levels. Except for the Lutheran Church, substantial compensation differences were found within each denomination. For example, within the Unitarian Universalist Association, clergy serving congregations with budgets of over $300,000 earned more than twice the salary of those serving congregations with budgets under $100,000. There are significant differences in the total clergy compensation packages. Some denominations require congregations to contribute 12% to 18% of their base compensation to pension or clergy life insurance. However, there appears to be little difference between denominations in health care coverage or in compensation for work-related expenses. (MC)