A recently published survey confirms what many may have already suspected: the larger a church, the higher the salary of its senior pastor. But does age also play a role in determining a senior pastor's salary?

Among 727 participating large churches — "large" meaning an average of 2,000 in weekly attendance — a Leadership Network survey published last month by researcher Warren Bird found that bigger churches paid their senior pastors higher wages.

The survey also revealed that, among large churches, age influenced salary — the older the pastor, typically the larger the church and, therefore, the higher the pay of the senior pastor. But there's an interesting twist.

Of 40, 50 and 60-year-old pastors of churches with the same average of 2,000 in weekly attendance in each age group, the 40-year-old pastor still earned the lowest salary, while the 50-year-old pastor earned a wage that was 14 percent higher than the 40 year old. The 60-year-old pastor earned a salary that was only 13 percent higher than the 40 year old.

While the 50 and 60-year-old pastors earned more than the 40 year old — despite all having the same sized church — the 50-year-old actually garnered the highest salary of them all.

Suppose churches of the same size in weekly attendance operated with exactly the same budget? Would the salaries of their senior pastors still vary among the three age groups? When surveyors considered average U.S. Protestant churches with 2,000 in weekly attendance and an annual budget of $3.7 million, controlling for attendance and budget, the salaries still varied — this time, however, not nearly as significantly.

Of the three age groups, the 40-year-old pastor still earned the least, while both the 50 and 60-year-old pastors each garnered salaries that were 1 percent higher than the 40 year old.

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