The Average Income of Lutheran Pastors

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Lutheran pastors made $50,000 to $60,000 in most synods in 2011, says the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Lutheran pastors made $50,000 to $60,000 in most synods in 2011, says the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The Lutheran church is a primary segment of the Christian faith in the United States along with other Protestant bodies. Lutheran pastors across America provide guidance to millions of individuals in their congregations, dealing with everything from marriages to issues of poverty and discrimination. Lutheran pastors earned salaries that averaged around $56,000 in 2011, which was above-average compared to other clergy members.

Typical Salaries

According to a salary survey by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, the largest Lutheran church body in America, the average salary for a Lutheran pastor in 2011 was $55,978. Converted into hourly compensation, this is $26.91 per hour under a normal 40-hour work week.

Salary Range

The ELCA survey showed that, in 2011, most Lutheran synods provided salaries to pastors between $50,000 and $60,000. However, the survey noted that salaries were anywhere between about $26,000 and $73,000. Viewed hourly, this means Lutheran pastors typically earned somewhere between approximately $24 and $29, although rates were as low as $12.50 and as high as $35.

ELCA Guidelines by Experience and Congregation Size

The ELCA sets guidelines for what Lutheran pastors should be paid. According to the ELCA guidelines for 2012, a Lutheran pastor with up to five years of experience should make between $35,515 and $59,559, depending on the size of his congregation. With six to 15 years as a pastor, the recommendation was $38,843 to $71,210. For pastors with 16 to 25 or more years of experience, the ELCA recommended $50,118 to $82,679.

ELCA Guidelines by Education Level

Lutheran pastors who have higher degrees are supposed to earn higher salaries, says the ELCA. A pastor with up to five years of experience and a bachelor's degree had suggested pay of $37,125 to $49,061. With a bachelor's degree and six to 15 years of leadership, the recommendation was $45,807 to $65,543. A pastor with 15 or more years in the church had a recommendation of $55,980 to $71,161. For those with master's degrees and up to five years of experience, the ELCA recommended $41,783 to $54,590. The recommendation for those with a master's degree and six to 15 years of experience was $49,110 to $69,244. Those with 15 years or more of leadership had a recommendation of $60,193 to $80,317.

Comparison to All Clergy

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, in May 2010, the average yearly salary for a member of the clergy was $48,290. Those in the 75th percentile made $58,360. Combining this data with the 2011 survey information from the ELCA, Lutheran pastors appear to have made wages above the national average for all clergy members, with their average resting slightly below the bureau's figure for those in the 75th percentile.

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