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Youth pastor pay averages about $40,000 Sam Hodges, Sep 30, 2011
UMNS PHOTO COURTESY KENTUCKY CONFERENCE
Youth from the UMC’s Kentucky Conference collected donated canned goods during an afternoon of service last year in Covington, Ky. They pushed grocery carts filled with food to a local food pantry.
By Sam Hodges Managing Editor
Youth will be served, the saying goes, but United Methodist pastors who serve kids directly certainly don’t get rich in the process.
A new report finds the average annual salary for a full-time United Methodist youth pastor is $40,065, though pay varies by region, church size and gender, with men making considerably more than women.
Overall, the UMC apparently lags in youth pastor pay.
A 2010 survey by Group, a youth ministry magazine, found the average salary across denominations and non-denominational churches was $44,000.
Hank Hilliard, director, young people’s ministries development for the General Board of Discipleship, did the UMC study. He’d seen the annual Group survey, and felt the UMC should have something similar.
“One of the most asked questions I get from churches and youth pastors is about compensation,” he said. “Churches want to know what to expect to pay a youth pastor, while youth pastors want to know how their pay matches up compared to others.”
The Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean, professor of youth, church and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a United Methodist elder, praised Mr. Hilliard for shedding light on youth pastor pay. She got an advance look at the results, and said they merit attention.
“Buying a house or sending your kids to college—or preschool, frankly—is very, very tough on a youth minister’s salary,” she said. “If those financial goals are in your future, you’re going to leave youth ministry when you decide to, say, get married, have children, or move out of your apartment.”
Mr. Hilliard put together a 12-question Internet survey, using the software SurveyMonkey, and sent the link to youth pastors through email and Facebook. About 300 responded, though Mr. Hilliard limited his results to the 201 who work full-time.
The survey showed that churches with more than 2,000 members paid youth pastors, on average, $50,665 per year. Pay descended by size category, with churches between 1,500 and 2,000 members paying $43,970, and churches between 101 and 300 members paying $30,273.
There’s considerable variance among UMC jurisdictions, too. The survey found South Central ($40,972) and Southeastern ($40,131) paid the most, with Northeastern ($35,436) paying the least.
Mr. Hilliard noted that the southern jurisdiction churches have more large churches than other jurisdictions. He added that cost of living is higher in the northeast, where pay for youth pastors is particularly low.
“That means the Northeastern Jurisdiction people are even farther behind,” he said.
The male youth pastors who responded to the survey were paid, on average, $42,273, while their female counterparts averaged $35,904. “Maybe the most unsettling part of the study is the gender gap it revealed,” Dr. Dean said. “We really need to look into that.”
The explanation may be the “stained-glass ceiling” problem, with women struggling to gain leadership in large churches.
Nearly twice as many men than women responded that they were working full-time as a UMC youth pastor. (The gap was much narrower among part-time pastors.) And of the 50 who responded from churches with more than 2,000 members, 39 were male.
Mr. Hilliard said that confirmed his anecdotal impressions.
“From what I know, most churches that are large churches have a male as youth pastor,” he said.
Rod Hocott oversees the youth ministry department of the UMC’s Arkansas Conference, and has done salary surveys of UMC youth pastors in that area. He’s glad to see some national data, and he hopes Mr. Hilliard’s work will lead to better pay.
“In hiring a full-time youth minister, churches have got to understand that they are putting someone in place that will be second only to the parents in a youth’s spiritual development,” he said. “Because this is such an important position, churches have to compensate adequately, offer good benefits, and demand that the youth ministers take time off and recruit volunteers so that they are not doing the whole thing alone.”
Mr. Hilliard said he hopes to do the UMC survey annually, expanding the number of respondents by working more closely with annual conferences, and also adding questions. Those who want to be in touch with him about this year’s results can email him at hhilliard@GBOD.org.
Paying youth pastors
Hank Hilliard, director, young people’s ministries development for the UMC’s General Board of Discipleship, recently surveyed youth pastors of the denomination as to pay. Of the 201 full-time pastors who responded, the average annual salary was $40,065.
Here are average salaries for full-time youth pastors, based on gender, jurisdiction and church membership:
* Male: $42,273 * Female: $35,904 * North Central: $36,240 * Northeastern: $35,436 * South Central: $40,972 * Southeastern: $40,131 * Western: $38,255 * Up to 100 members: $25,250 * 101-300: $30,273 * 301-500: $33,472 * 501-1,000: $36,471 * 1,001-1,500: $39,864 * 1,501-2,000: $43,970 * More than 2,000: $50,655