The Biggest Challenge With Salaries In Growing Churches – And How To Address It

Church Salaries

Church growth equates to Kingdom growth, and that growth should always be celebrated. Inevitably, however, organizations that grow must confront challenges with growing pains: the way things have been done in the past simply will not scale and need to be changed. 

One of these areas is staffing. A growing church often needs to add additional staff roles to effectively serve more people. However, this opens a Pandora’s box of staff salaries. Any Executive or Senior Pastor might lose sleep over the fact that the new Student Pastor hire will be making more than their supervisor, who hasn't yet received a raise. Here are five helpful ideas to think through when your staff salaries are lagging behind your attendance and financial growth.  

1. Know What Criteria To Use For Setting Salaries

Many resources exist to help with setting salaries. Use a resource with a large number of salary survey participants. The larger the survey group, the more likely you are to get an accurate salary range. You'll want to look at a number of criteria when assessing a salary range: the cost of living in your community, the average weekly attendance of the church, the annual church budget, and the specific role criteria.

This is just a starting point; you will want to add job specifics, education, experience, etc. At Vanderbloemen, we have heard from many churches that this is a pain point, so we have created a comprehensive compensation tool to assist with re-aligning your staff salaries.

2. Know What Your Church Can Afford

Most churches establish a percentage for salaries and benefits in relation to the entire church budget. This is typically in the 50% range. When a church grows quickly, the rule is typically that people come first and bring their wallets second.

There is often a lag between attendance numbers and giving numbers. If this is the case, churches often allow the salary and benefit percentage to increase for a 2-3 year time frame. If a church has set a cap at 45% for salary and benefits, it may allow the budget to absorb a 55% cap with the goal to be back at 50% once giving catches up with growth. Before the annual budgeting process, it is critical that the finance and church leadership teams have this conversation.

3. Know How Many Staff You Need

As a church grows, the staff requires change. Usually that means adding more staff, but sometimes it means realigning staff, using contract personnel to fill in some gaps, or working with a nearby college or university to attract some great interns. Current statistics for weekly church attendance-to-staff ratio is about 75:1. So for approximately every 75 attendees on a given weekend, there should be to one full-time staff position. 

"As a church grows, their staff requires change." Tweet:

4. Come Up With A Fluid Plan

Once you know the real numbers of what you can afford today and where staff salaries should be, come up with a plan to reach that mark. This may be a two to three year plan.

There may be some tough spots during the transition when staff members are stretched and there may be instances when new staff hires make more than their supervisor for a short time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and righting staff salaries will not be done overnight. Focus on future growth when planning your adjustment of staff salaries. Forecast what your attendance numbers will be in two years and plan accordingly.

5. Communicate With And Affirm Your Staff 

The staff feels strain and stress from a quickly growing ministry. It is exciting, but also causes stress and anxiety. Be transparent and honest. Let them know you’re aware their roles have grown and how much you appreciate the work they do. Consistent affirmation and appreciation goes a long way. Let your staff know that not only do you see the extra work and ministry time they spent in their roles, but you also have a plan to alleviate the growing pains. A year-end or mid-year, non-merit based bonus is always a nice idea as well.  

"Consistent affirmation and appreciation goes a long way." Tweet:

What have you done to help your staff navigate times of rapid growth in your church ministry?