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Posted November 22, 2005

The Statistics on the Financial Compensation and Benefits of Lay Ministers

Parish Salaries

The increase in salaries since 1990 (in terms of nominal dollars) is striking. In most categories lay parish ministers have doubled their annual earnings.

The Census Bureau’s Current Populations Survey shows that lay parish ministers’ salaries are fairly on par with salaries (overall) nationally. The figure does not parse out non-profits or people with similar education levels, but deals with median income levels for full-time work.

Salary Satisfaction

Two-thirds either strongly agreed (22.5 percent) or agreed somewhat (45.7 percent) that their annual earnings were adequate for their personal, family or religious congregational needs.

However, about a third of ministers (31.8 percent) do not find their annual earnings adequate for their personal, family or religious congregational needs. Nearly four in 10 (37.8 percent) do not believe that their parishes have the resources to compensate them adequately.


In terms of major benefits, parishes are on par with private industry and in some instances better. With respect to medical and dental insurance, and pensions, the parishes compare favorably with the private sector; only in respect to life insurance do they fall somewhat short.

Job Satisfaction

More than 85 percent of ministers describe their work as meaningful, good, providing a sense of accomplishment, satisfying, challenging, spiritually rewarding, creative, respected, life-giving and appreciated — all qualities one longs for in a job.

Perhaps the best indicator of satisfaction is the high percentage of parish ministers who would encourage others to enter parish ministry: 87.1 percent.