Teacher and Pastors: Thoughts on Compensation, Education, and Experience

In my town there are two public school systems – Bartow County and City of Cartersville. The average annual salary for a teacher in the Bartow County school system is $54,342 per year. The average annual salary for a teacher in the City of Cartersville school system is $58,908. As is the case with any population of employees, the average is calculated using the higher salaries of more experienced and educated employees and the lower salaries of less experienced and educated employees. There is also, of course, the merit of individual employees to consider, which can vary wildly from teacher to teacher. There is, however, one thing that all the teachers in both systems have in common – a base level of education. No one can get a job as a teacher in either school system without a bachelor’s degree. Those teachers who go on to earn a master’s degree are able to demand a higher rate of pay than those who do not. The more educated and experienced the teacher, the more he will be compensated. Sensibly enough, the citizens of Bartow County expect that the individuals charged with educating the children of Bartow County are themselves educated. But what about the expectations of Bartow’s Christians? Do they expect that their pastors, especially their youth pastors, be educated and compensated in a manner commensurate with public school teachers? It is my contention, given that one of the primary responsibilities of pastors is teaching, that they should. But are they?

At my church’s recent conference to discuss the 2018 church budget, one of the items up for review was staff salary. My Southern Baptist church employs two full time ministers – the pastor and the minister of students and families. Technically speaking, the latter does not hold the title of “pastor”. However, he does perform duties that are pastoral in nature and is commonly referred to as the “youth pastor”. To be clear, nowhere in the Bible will anyone find the titles “youth pastor”, “executive pastor”, “education pastor”, or “senior pastor”. Such titles are, for lack of a better term, made up. They are also quite novel to church history. In the most basic sense, there are two offices in a New Testament Church: Deacon and Pastor/Elder/Overseer. Nevertheless, it is the reality in the modern church that certain functions have been assigned to certain specialty “pastors”. The “youth pastor” is tasked with evangelizing and educating young people (or, in some unfortunate church contexts, babysitting and entertaining them). The gravity of such a task cannot be underestimated. The “youth pastor” at my church has earned a masters degree from one of our denominational seminaries. (The same is true of our “senior pastor”.) Coming out of our recent budget meeting, I couldn’t help but wonder if our “minister of students and families” earned a salary commensurate with local middle and high school teachers since his job is quite comparable to theirs.

There happen to be two public school teachers who serve as deacons at my church. One teaches Math at a public school within our county. Another teaches Science at a public school in an adjacent county. I do not know if either man has a masters degree but both are roughly the same age as our “youth pastor” (I believe they are slightly older). In the state of Georgia, the salaries of public employees are publicly available and published online. I decided to look up the salaries of these deacons and compare them with the salary our church pays our minister of students and families. Both of the deacons earn roughly 30% more salary than the man tasked with teaching the youth of our church. Science and Math are indispensable subjects and the importance of teaching them to young people is paramount. However, teaching the Bible to young people is of no less importance. Does the world value teaching Math and Science to young people more than churches like ours value teaching to the Bible to the same?

Numbers don’t lie.

Our church is blessed to have an educated youth minister, an actual theologian. Many churches are apt to place an uneducated and inexperienced individual in charge of youth ministry. Such “youth ministry” has a tendency to be event and entertainment-driven and is, at best, focused on moralism and making an often ill-defined decision for Christ. This is certainly not optimal.

Consider the biblical qualifications for holding the pastoral office (“youth” or otherwise):

  • Above reproach,

  • The husband of one wife

  • Having children who believe

  • Not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

  • Able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

That describes what I would call a “grown man”. If a church chooses to hire a man to oversee its youth ministry in a pastoral way, it should pay that individual like a grown man, especially if he is as well-educated or better-educated than those public schools have charged with teaching youth. (There should be no such thing as a 20-year-old “youth pastor” whose most relevant previous “Christian” employment is working the cash register at Chic-fil-A!) There is a great battle in the world for Christian young people. Christian parents should certainly not abdicate the primary responsibility they have for discipling their children to any paid minister but if they do belong to a church that chooses to hire a “youth pastor” they need to ensure that they hire a mature, educated theologian…and pay him accordingly.

How much money does your church’s youth pastor make? How much is he worth?

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

1 thought on “Teacher and Pastors: Thoughts on Compensation, Education, and Experience

  1. Sandy Morris

    Good comments, Seth. My husband has an advanced degree and teaches high school math in a public county school. His salary is less than what the church we attend pays the majority of its ministerial staff based upon the 2018 proposed budget. (I say this based on the generalized budget presented to the congregation. I do not know the actual salary of any of the individual ministerial staff or administrative support staff members of our church because, unlike the public school teacher salaries, the salaries of our church staff are not available to the public.) The Youth Pastor at our church is a former educator in the public school system and he is a God fearing family man. While I can not say that his salary is comparable (less or more) to what he was making as a teacher, I can say that he is an excellent Youth Pastor and that he loves our students and teaches them the Gospel of Christ with passion. We are blessed to have him on staff! Most educators, including my husband, will tell you that they do what they do because they love the job and the students, not for the paycheck. I feel certain that our Youth Pastor didn’t leave education to enter into full time ministry for the money, anymore than he was a public school teacher for the money. He works for the glory of God and it is evident in his witness to those 6-12 graders he oversees each and every Sunday and Wednesday.
    *Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.


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