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What percentage of a church's operating budget should be allocated to staffing? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Here's an interesting approach. An increasing number of Christian organizations are asking their staff to raise their own support. World Missions is almost there; it's at around 90 per cent, I believe. It's a way to determine whether one is indeed called to that ministry.

What if we used that same model at the congregational level. Want to serve on a church staff? Ask family and friends to support you financially and with prayer. Imagine establishing church budgets where almost all of the funds go to program or outreach ... apart from the physical operation of the church building!

Salaries take an incredible chunk out of a church's budget. Ministers in the Christian Reformed Church are envied by those in other denominations because they known for being among the top wage earners. The Presbyterian notion of a 'stipend' -- a living wage -- for pastors is something to be considered.

So, if you feel called to the ministry -- whether as an overseas missionary or as a local pastor -- have that sense of calling affirmed by asking members of the congregation -- face to face -- to support your salary through a regular donation ... apart from the church budget. It's bound to be a humbliny and revealing experience.

Based on casual surveys done by church administrators from various denominations, the personnel budget (salaries and benefits) is usually around 50% or slightly more of the total budget. The percentage can vary depending on whether the church is paying off debt or includes missionary support in their budget.  Church staff help accomplish ministries so sometimes it is helpful to see a draft of a budget where staff members' salaries and benefits are assigned to the different ministry areas.  Church staff are organizing, planning, leading, recruiting others, and doing ministry. 

The problem with this question is that it leads us in the wrong direction. It is easy to look at a church budget and find that 50, 60, or 75% or more of the budget is used to support staff and the remaining balance is "ministry". We need to see that a church's commitment to staff is often its commitment to ministry. Instead of looking, for example, at a full-time youth pastor and classifying him or her as "staff", designate that salary under "youth ministry" in the budget. It says that we care so much about our youth and the youth of the community that we've designated $x to it. In our church we have a full-time commissioned pastor whose roles involve in engaging the community, working with community youth, and being a chaplain to three local police agencies. It would be a disservice to her and her work simple to call the cost of having her as "staff expense". I consider 100% of her effort as missional, evangelism or outreach (you chose the right word). My role in the church is divided in a similar way. I can spent, for example, 30% of my time preparing for worship. That is not a staff cost; it is our commitment to worship. My time meeting with members in the hospital is our commitment to congregational care. And on you can go. Our budget simply tells us where our priorities are. We need to stop looking at the cost of the person and begin to see what he or she is doing. 

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