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Salary Guidelines for SDB Pastors


     The Committee on Support and Retirement (COSAR) desires to serve SDB churches by recommending minimum and goal salaries for full-time SDB pastors. 
     COSAR recommends that for churches who cannot meet the minimum salary requirement for their pastor that these guidelines be used to determine hours for which their pastor is compensated for work in the church and to allow other employment to help meet financial needs.

Minimum Salary Recommendations
     The breakdown below is suggested to calculate a minimum salary for pastors in three different kinds of pastorates (rural, urban, and special). The salary base includes cash salary and housing allowance. The salary base DOES NOT include benefits or the church’s share of FICA1. These recommendations also reflect a 0.3% COLA2 over the 2016 Salary Guidelines.

     Rural Salary Base
—Community with a population of under 30,000. This salary base is equal to the “2016 Rural      Salary Base” + COLA.
     2017 Rural Salary: $37,715  

     Urban Salary Base—Community with a population of 30,000 or more.  This salary base is equal to the “2016          Urban Salary Base” + COLA.
     2017 Urban Salary Base: $39,997

     Special Salary Base—Community where rent equals one-third of the salary for even modest housing. This                salary base is equal to the “2016 Special Salary Base” + COLA.
     2017 Special Salary Base: $44,436

Goal Salary Recommendations
     In the belief that SDB churches should provide more than minimal support to their pastors, COSAR also recommends a Goal Salary that takes into consideration experience and theological and pastoral training.

  • Experience—It is recommended that the appropriate salary base be increased by 2.5% for each year of service in pastoral ministry, up to a maximum of 20 years or 50%.
  • Theological/Pastoral Training—It is recommended that the appropriate salary based be increased by an additional amount for completed theological/pastoral training:
    $5,000 for a D.Min., Ph.D., or Th.D.
    $4000 for a M.Div. or equivalent
    $2,500 for a Bachelors in Pastoral Ministry or other church related degree
    $1,500 for T.I.M.E. or SDBU Advanced Pastoral Ministry Certificate
    $750 for SDBU Basic Pastoral Ministry Certificate

     Other recommended parts of compensation include benefits such medical insurance and/or a Health Savings Account (HSA), retirement, reimbursement, vacation, and other insurance.

  • Medical Insurance/HSA—Look for group rates with your local Chamber of Commerce. Investigate Christian healthcare organizations.3 Discover if you qualify for government programs. Invest in a HSA.  
  • Retirement—The General Conference helps to administer a 403b plan.4 COSAR recommends contributing 16% of the appropriate salary base as the church’s contribution toward retirement.
  • Reimbursement—The following expenses for ministry are recommended for reimbursement by the church: travel (@ 53.5 cents per mile), books or magazines for study, meals/coffee with members for counseling or visitation, professional expenses for clergy groups, or any cost for doing ministry on behalf of the church (such as General Conference, etc.).
  • Vacation—The only cost to a church for providing vacation to their pastor is covering their responsibilities. Attendance at General Conference, Association, Pastors Conference, mission trips, or other like events should not be considered vacation. COSAR recommends the following vacation time based on total years of service in vocational ministry (full-time and part-time):
    1-5 years of service 2 weeks
    6-10 years of service 3 weeks
    11-20 years of service 4 weeks
    21+ years of service 5 weeks
  • Other Insurance—Consider Workmen’s Compensation as well as Short5 and/or Long Term Disability Insurance for your pastor.

     COSAR understands that these suggested minimum and goal salaries will stretch church budgets and impact the denominational budget.  Low salaries (and unreasonable expectations) are a major factor in limiting pastoral recruitment, causing stress in the pastor’s family and forcing pastors to leave the ministry.  On the other hand, providing adequate support for pastors is ethically right and honoring to God.
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” – 1 Timothy 5:17

You can access a downloadable version of these guidelines here: Salary Guidelines for SDB Pastors 2017.
You can access the worksheet that compliments these guidelines here: Salary Guidelines for SDB Pastors Worksheet 2017

1Pastors are considered employees for income tax purposes and self-employed for Social Security purposes. Therefore, they pay 15.3% rather than the 7.65% which is generally paid by an employee with the employer paying the remaining 7.65%.
2Cost of Living Adjustment
3Such as MediShare or Christian Healthcare Ministries
4Contact the Conference office for more information.
5COSAR helps provide Disability Insurance for pastors who serve at least 30 hours per week. Contact the Conference office for more information.