In a recent survey conducted by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, Protestant pastors finally broke the $40,000 mark in average annual compensation. Pastoral compensation grew from a median of $32,040 a decade ago to $40,077 today. This represents a 25 percent increase since 1992, a 10 percent rise in the past five years, and a jump of 4.9 percent above last year's average. The bad news is that when compared to the change in the Consumer's Price Index during the same period, Protestant pastors have remained just about even with the rise in the cost of living during the past decade.

Denominational affiliation also impacts earnings. At the high end of the compensation scale with packages worth nearly 14 percent more than the norm are pastors of Episcopal, American Baptist, Presbyterian (USA), Lutheran, United Methodist, and United Church of Christ congregations, averaging $45,510.

Pastoral experience makes a difference, too, but not until pastors enter their second decade of ministry. While there is a minimal difference in the average compensation order for pastors who have been in full-time ministry for up to nine years, those in their second decade of ministry or more receive about 34 percent more compensation than do the newest members of the profession.

One of the largest gaps distinguishes pastors in urban and suburban churches from those in rural congregations. While the former average nearly $45,000 annually, rural pastors had a median of just less than $33,000.

In other words, pastors of urban and suburban churches average about one-third more than do their rural peers.

As expected, the packages given to pastors vary significantly according to the size of the church. Pastors of churches that have an average of less than 100 adults attending their church services in a typical week - a group that represents a majority of the nation's Protestant congregations - receive compensation valued at $31,613 annually. Pastors of churches that attract 100 to 250 adults get 50 percent more ($47,368). The largest churches (251 or more people) get compensation that averages $58,332.

The survey was based on telephone interviews conducted during May, 2002 among a nationwide random sample of 601 senior pastors of Protestant churches located within the 48 continental states.

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