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…
- 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.
- 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.
|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%|