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What is the proper compensation for a bivocational minister?

Churches who ask me this question are often concerned that they are not adequately compensating their bivocational minister but are not sure what would be considered fair.

Others might be considering calling a bivocational minister for the first time and wonder what would be fair compensation.

Occasionally, I’ve felt the church asking the question was just wanting to get by as cheaply as possible.

When a bivocational minister inquires about my thoughts on this subject, he or she is often feeling that their compensation is too low. They wonder what others are being paid.

Whatever the reason for the question, my initial response is usually the same, “As much as you can afford.”

I did a survey in 2004 of bivocational ministers in the American Baptist Churches of USA.

While the numbers are a bit dated at this point, the 112 responses that I received to my survey revealed that compensation varied widely – a trend that has continued.

The average was $9,770 for male pastors and $8,578 for female pastors. The highest salary reported was $26,430 for a male pastor and $24,000 for a female pastor.

A few pastors reported they received no salary. Some churches paid their insurance premiums in lieu of a salary. A couple of pastors were allowed to live in the parsonage rather than receiving a salary.

Churches have an obligation to provide for their ministers, and there are a variety of ways that they can do so.

While a church may not have the financial resources to pay a fully funded pastor, they need to be responsible enough to provide reasonable compensation for their pastor.

Such compensation can come through a fair salary, but it can also come through non-taxable benefits.

Over half of the persons who responded to my survey reported that they did not receive a parsonage allowance from their church.

Properly set up, this can provide a tax-free increase in what the pastor receives from the church without it costing the church anything. Your CPA can advise how to properly set up a housing allowance.

Many of the respondents said that they received no compensation other than a salary. Churches can include reimbursements as part of the salary package as a way of adding to the pastor’s compensation.

Many churches pay a mileage reimbursement to their pastor. The church I served provided a book allowance and reimbursed me for attending continuing education events and denominational gathering.

One of the best components of my salary package as a bivocational minister was when the church decided to pay into our denomination’s retirement plan.

Since retiring this past December, I am thankful every month for their willingness to help provide for my future.

The proper answer to the question of how much to pay the bivocational minister is for the church to be as fair to that person as possible.

You should set up a salary and benefit package that can meet the current and future needs of your minister.

Few people go into bivocational ministry expecting to become wealthy, but we also want to honor those who serve our churches and one way to do that is to be fair with them financially.

Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.

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