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Paddling Harder: The 2019 Youth Ministry Salary Survey

We have a global warming problem, but some struggle to acknowledge its source and implications.

Meanwhile, we have a “global freezing” problem in the youth ministry world, and some in the church are struggling to acknowledge its source and implications. The “freeze” is driven by a church in decline (a 20 percentage-point decline since 1999)—stagnant youth ministry salaries and shrinking career possibilities are the results…

So, it’s been four years since we asked youth pastors all over the U.S. to do something brave—give us their private salary information in great detail. Here I’ll focus on two big takeaways from our survey, but you can get the full survey results by clicking here…

  1. Shifting Demographics—Three-quarters of the youth pastors in our survey are married (76%), down 10 percentage points from 2015. And far fewer are male (57%) than four years ago (79%). The typical youth pastor is 40 years old (a big jump from the average age of 35 in our previous survey), has 8.7 years of paid experience (no change), and has been at their current church just over four years (no change). Finally, the average church in our survey has 32 teenagers in its youth ministry (a steep decline from 40 four years ago).

The Takeaway: Paid youth workers are getting older and more of them are female—likely the result of a shrinking pipeline for young and inexperienced new applicants, and a seismic contracting of paid positions combined with stagnant salaries that is pulling more women into the field as men leave it. A 20 percent decline in youth group size mirrors a similar decline in church attendance overall. According to a Gallup survey, only half of Americans are now church members, compared to 70 percent a decade ago.

  1. It’s a Side Hustle—A decade ago it was rare to find paid youth workers who felt the need to find a “side hustle” to make ends meet. Now the majority do. Bi-vocational ministry is now the norm in youth ministry, with more than half (55 percent) working another job outside of the church. And compared to four years ago, a slightly higher percentage of youth pastors say they’d leave their church for another position if the salary was higher, and a slightly lower percentage say they get a yearly cash bonus. In the last four years, the cost of living has gone up by 7.65 percent, but the overall salary package (for men and women combined) over the same time period bumped up 7.7 percent—that’s called treading water.

The Takeaway: Combine these stagnant numbers with a clear movement in the church from full-time paid youth ministry positions to part-time, and from part-time to volunteer, and you get a career ministry environment that is fragile and under duress. But Jesus takes ugly things and refashions them into beautiful things—as the clouds move over “career positions” in youth ministry, volunteer and bi-vocational youth workers feel a greater freedom to try new ideas and innovate new ways to reach teenagers. I see an explosion of “guerilla ministry” strategies that are not dependent on a church salary to pull off.


2019 2015 2012 2010 2007
Overall Average Base Salary $34,200 $32,300 N/A N/A $32,500
Overall Average Base Salary Package $41,800 $38,800 $37,500 $44,000 $42,500
Average Salary Package – Men $46,750 $42,850 $41,200 $46,000 $42,500
Average Salary Package – Women $31,250 $27,500 $27,000 $36,000 $37,500
Average Work Week 42 hours 44 hours 44 hours 52 hours 45 hours
Yes, I’m Compensated Fairly 73% 75% 71% 77% 75%
I Have Another Job Outside of Church 55% 50% 36% 13% 15%


Of course, these takeaways are just the tip of the (freezing) iceberg. For the full, free report on our 2019 Youth Ministry Salary Survey, just complete the form below.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


4 thoughts on “Paddling Harder: The 2019 Youth Ministry Salary Survey

  1. Marybeth Muldowney

    Hey Group!

    This research was VERY interesting. Some of these findings have been posted on several online communities with the apparent pay disparity between men and women being front and center. Will you be releasing the research in terms of gender? For example, it would be helpful to see education level and denominations broken down by gender, as many denominations don’t ordain women, but do have females working as youth ministers (usually with a college degree instead of a masters or higher that an ordained male may have- therefore making less money than a male pastor might make). This would greatly help with the conversations about pay. Thank you!

    • Hi Marybeth, I know there are nuances buried underneath these numbers, but we can’t parse the male/female results down to the specifics you’re describing. There is a clear male/female difference in pay for youth workers, and there always has been (I’ve been doing this survey for the last 30 years)… It’s an inherited disparity that seems incredible, but is also reflected in the non-ministry world…

  2. Kyle Crenshaw

    I appreciate you publishing this report and I realize that not every report can cover all variances. However, this report is somewhat misleading because you are taking both full time and part time salaries and combining them together. I think most YP would love to see what the breakdown would be for Male FT, Male PT, Female FT, Female PT. Is there anyway we could get those results?

    • Kyle, even though we list the respondents who are “paid, part-time”—the results you see are for paid, full-time youth pastors. I should’ve made that more clear.

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