Everybody struggles with it. Everybody seemingly wants more of it. So how much should we pay our church leaders? This article is drawn from the responses of 135 Executive Pastors about their base salary. Consider the following email that I received:

I was wondering, at what point in the interview process is it appropriate to talk about salary-related issues? Do you have any advice in general in regards to salary conversations with churches? I have gleaned a great deal from your website, which I feel like has better prepared me as I’m in this discernment phase.      ~Jim Hudson, XP at CrossWinds Church, Dublin, California 

The questions that Jim raised are common ones. Both churches as “employers” and XPs as “employees” need definitive answers about fair compensation. We all need to answer the question “how much is enough?” The XPastor Compensation Survey gives reliable data that allows for important conclusions. In this article we will see that churches in the same town pay differently yet churches in the same region pay the same. Large churches tend to pay significantly more yet size isn’t everything. Before you go and make a decision based on church size, you had better read this article. Then, you need to participate in the XPastor Compensation Survey to get all the data.

XPastor hosts two compensation surveys (thanks to Warren Schuh who got it kicked off at the 2005 XP-Seminar). This article won’t talk about the larger and more time-intensive survey. When you participate in either one, you are given access for one year to a regularly updated password protected page for that survey. The chart above is from the “Give 1 Item & Get 1 Page XP-Compensation Survey.” This survey examines base salary and presents the results anonymously. 135 XPs, and people in similar roles, have participated in the survey.

# in Worship # of Churches
Under 500 22
501 – 1400 49
1401 – 2800 44
Over 2800 20

The magenta-purple area on the chart (see PDF below article) is worship attendance. Some churches want to measure membership, but this is not a valid indicator of how many people may actually attend. Membership may be higher or lower than actual attendance. Some churches want to add in total attendance (such as youth and children). The XPastor Compensation Survey just measures worship attendance. The scale of potential worship attendance can be seen at the right, going from zero to 12,000 people. At the left side of the chart, actual worship attendance begins at 125 people and grows to 10,000 people.

A black trend line snakes through the entire chart. The polynomial trend line shows the salary pattern as compared to worship attendance. One can see a general trend—as worship attendance goes up, so does the salary.

Compensation Lessons

Churches in the same town pay differently. The hypothetical example in Houston only has the names changed. There can be substantial differences in one city, even of churches of the same size. This could be explained by other benefits, or philosophy of compensation, etc. The bottom line is each church is unique and often sets its own agenda.

Churches in the same region pay the same. That is, they have regional salary tendencies. How can this be if churches in the same city can have different base salaries? When one averages in all the churches of one region, general trends emerge for XP compensation:

  • The Northeast region tends to pay XPs the lowest
  • The Midwest comes in second lowest
  • The South is second highest
  • The West can pay slightly higher than the South

Again, you can participate in the survey to get all the charts and data.

Larger churches tend to pay significantly more. Let’s put some percentages to this thought. A church with more than 2,800 people in worship tends to …

  • Pay 85% more than a church of under 500.
  • Pay 42% more than a church of 501-1400.
  • Pay 18% more than a church of 1401-2800.

Remember, this is just a trend. Don’t go hopping to a large church and expect a gargantuan base salary. To emphasize this trend, consider that …

  • All 19 churches that paid less than $50,000 had less than 1,200 in worship.
  • All 20 churches with more than 3,000 in worship paid over $61,000.

These facts illustrate why there is a myth out there that “all big churches pay big salaries.” Many do, but not all!

Size isn’t everything. Doesn’t this contradict what was just said? Not really—because we need to separate out the trend-busting from the trend-averaging churches. There are some wonderful churches that don’t fit the trend. They break the trend.

  • Of the 19 churches that pay over $100,000, worship attendance ranged from 650 to 6,000 people.

Over ten percent of the survey churches paid salaries over $100,000. There was great disparity in the church size in the ultra-top tier of XP salaries.


Salary surveys are helpful in determining comparable compensation. Yet, there is a great deal of variety between churches, even in the same city. If you think that going to a larger church will give a huge salary boost, think twice. It might, but it is not a guarantee. If a medium-sized church comes calling, carefully examine the compensation. They may surprise you—and match or greatly beat a large church in the same city.

In this article we have seen that churches in the same town pay differently yet churches in the same region can pay the same. Large churches can pay significantly more yet size isn’t everything. Now that you have read this summary of the data, you need to participate in the XPastor salary survey. Get the data and interpret it for yourself.


View charts in the original PDF:  Paying the XP

(Editor’s note:  This article (the remainder of which is an unchangeable PDF) refers to the XPastor Compensation Survey as a free survey.  At that time it was; now there is a fee charged.)