Four steps to determine salaries for Christian ministries

Human Resources | ,

four steps to determine salaries for christian ministries
Blue office chair with gold coins stacked in the seat

What Christian ministries need to know about salaries for pastors, and ministry and non-profit staff in Canada.

Even in the first church, wages for ministers of the gospel weren’t straightforward.

How much should pastors, missionaries, administrators, church staff and other Christian ministry employees be paid? The answer lies at the intersection of Biblical justice, law, personal calling and ministry capacity.

Join our compensation webinar on February 7th! Learn how to build the right compensation package for your ministry. Find out how you can receive an invitation here.

What the Bible says about ministry salaries

The importance of compensating workers fairly for their efforts is highlighted frequently in the Old and New Testaments. When sending out the seventy-two, Jesus instructs that, “the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). However, keep in mind that Jesus also sent out these same seventy-two with instructions to take no purse or even spare sandals.

The apostle Paul instructed Christians to pay those serving in ministry (1 Tim 5:17-18, 1 Cor 9:9, 1 Cor 9:14-15). At the same time, he is clear about the advantages of being able to preach for free as a calling rather than a career (2 Cor 2:17, 1 Cor 9:16-18, Acts 18:3).

While it is a matter of biblical justice for workers to be paid fair wages, workers called to ministry are often motivated and rewarded by something much greater than money. The best practices for secular businesses have limitations when applied to Christian employment settings. Yet there is still some wisdom to be borrowed to help create equitable, desirable employment positions. Church salaries and missionary salaries should reflect a balance of biblical values.

Pastor’s salaries can be a tense subject. Consistency on the part of decision makers can lay the foundation for peace.

Here are four steps to help employers determine sustainable salaries for ministry staff and the organizations that commission them.

1. Consider your values for ministry compensation

Most likely, your organization wants to steward and sustain what you have – both your funds and your personnel. This might mean taking a hard look at what salaries are feasible long-term.

Can your staff care for their families, live out the kingdom of God, and prepare for the future with their income? At the same time, how much can you afford to put towards salaries without compromising your core ministry objectives?

Most organizations want to avoid the extremes of undue extravagance and leaving staff struggling to make ends meet. Where you find the middle ground will be determined by your organization’s values.

Think about:

  • Do you want to keep as much money as possible to meet the needs of those you serve?
  • Is mentorship a priority?
  • Is financially empowering your staff to live generously part of your DNA?
  • Do you want to build long-term relationships that could be compromised by staff turnover?
  • How important is it to you to have experienced or high-capacity staff?

2. Peek at average ministry salaries for similar positions

The Canadian Ministry Compensation Survey is the largest source of compensation information for Canadian Christian charities.

How much do other organizations with similar positions pay their staff? What will potential employees expect? Find out in seconds using CCCC’s Canadian Ministry Compensation Survey (Compensation Survey) – a national survey offering a benchmark for appropriate salaries for staff in more than 50 ministry positions.

Compare your compensation packages with similar ministries. The Canadian Ministry Compensation Survey is a national Christian ministry salary survey of over 1,200 churches and Christian agencies. Filter compensation reports by ministry type and position.

Access the Compensation Survey here.

3. Create/consult your compensation policy

Compensation policies define the principles by which employees are paid. They may include:

  • Compensation philosophy
  • Base salaries
  • Overtime
  • Vacation days
  • Pay frequency
  • Bonuses
  • Incentive plans
  • Non-cash compensation
  • Benefits
  • Job titling

Compensation policies fulfill multiple objectives including:

  • Ensuring legal compliance
  • Creating “internal equity” (fairness) protects employee morale
  • Protecting the organization against claims of unfair treatment

Creating a compensation policy begins with a job valuation for current positions within your organization, often completed by an outside consultant. A job valuation will consider the skill, efforts, and importance of each position in your organization to create a consistent pay structure across your ministry.

Policies should include a compensation structure that outlines their strategy for determining rates of pay.

For example, one of the most common compensation structures is a graded pay structure. In it, similar jobs are grouped together and assigned a salary range based on your organization’s target percentile from the national average for similar positions. Staff salaries within the range are determined based on objective criteria such as previous experience, education or performance indicators.

Alternative structures include broad-band pay structures or individual pay ranges. Learn more about compensation structures here: The Importance of a Compensation Policy (

Overall, your compensation policy can function as a set of objective rules instead of making salary decisions case-by-case.

CCCC offers a Compensation Review package to assist you in job valuation, creating a compensation policy and more. The Compensation Review – Canadian Centre for Christian Charities (

4. Perks count for a lot

It’s no secret that employees of churches, mission organizations, and other Christian ministries are often not in their positions for the money alone. Many people are led by a sense of calling and the intrinsic value of working in ministry.

Intrinsic value may include the joy of working within a healthy organizational culture, opportunities for personal development, and job satisfaction. Mentorship by Christian leaders and opportunities to use gifts and talents to serve God cannot be easily monetized, but certainly represent incentive for many employees.

Other more tangible benefits also make employment positions attractive. Benefits may be of direct monetary value or simply make work life better:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Paid time off
  • Healthcare packages
  • Options for sabbaticals
  • Ministry or other professional training
  • Pension plan
  • Use of a company vehicle
  • Free meals or accommodations
  • Opportunities to travel or network
  • Seasonal bonuses

These factors should be listed and taken into consideration when deciding on compensation. Positions that are less directly involved in ministry may be less attractive to potential candidates and need to be compensated accordingly.

Need more guidance on Christian ministry compensation?

Your values, company policies, market rates, and various benefits should be taken together to determine what is best for your team. The right compensation will motivate your employees and further your mission.

Still not sure which numbers to land on? You’re not alone. CCCC is always creating resources to share our expertise about compensation and more.

Looking for guidance tailored to your organization and situation? Contact our Member Support Team to speak with one of our staff about your needs.  

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