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09. 23. 2023

Current Events

The Youth Pastor Compensation Survey is Here!

| 2 min read

Written by Matt Steen
Jan 22, 2021 1:11:57 PM

A Chemistry Conversation with Dan Navarra


Dan Navarra shares some incredible insights from his recently published Youth Pastor Compensation Report in this Chemistry Conversation. 


Inside this year’s report, Dan reveals the national average youth pastor salary for 2021, ways to calculate your state’s cost of living adjustment in less than a minute, how your Enneagram type may affect your compensation and career, and new indicators of pivoting to online ministry correlating with compensation. 


Watch the conversation or view the transcript

About Dan Navarra: Dan Navarra has over fifteen years experience in vocational ministry out in sunny California. He received his undergraduate degree from CSU East Bay in Philosophy with a Religious Emphasis before going on to finish his Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2015. In addition to being a full-time pastor, Dan has expertise specializing in church finances, HR, and Youth Pastor compensation. His work with Youth Pastor Compensation has been featured at Church Law & Tax, the National Network of Youth Ministries, and he’s held coaching calls all over the country to help Youth Pastors turn their calling into a sustainable career. 


Download the Youth Pastor Compensation Survey

Read the Full Transcript

Matt Steen: Well hey, my name's Matt Steen. I'm the Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, and this is another Chemistry conversation. I'm excited today because joining me is Dan Navarra. Dan is one of our church coaches. He's a guy that goes and helps churches find youth pastors, worship pastors, all sorts of people. He's been serving with us for, gee what, 18 months, 2 years now Dan?

Dan Navarra: Yeah, a couple years.

Matt Steen: A couple years now. Before that, he's got about 15 years in youth ministry. One of the things that he's done, I guess going on 4 years now, is a nation-wide compensation survey for youth pastors. And this is one of those things, it's something that really we've got other organizations that are doing full church staff compensation surveys, but this one is really focused on youth pastors and has gotten great data for the last 4 years. We're excited because Dan this week is releasing the data from this year's, and I think there's some really cool things that will help some of our churches understand what the trends are right now. So Dan, thanks for taking some time to talk, man.

Dan Navarra: Yeah, glad to be here. Thanks for having me, Matt. I'm excited to talk about this stuff.

Matt Steen: So let's just dive right in. You've done this survey. You had probably about 1,000 people give or take from across the country, different situations that participated in this year. What's the biggest trends that you're seeing coming out of the data this year?

Dan Navarra: What everybody's always interested in what the big number is, like what's the average salary of a youth pastor, and we'll get to that in a second. But I like to stack them year over year. So last year we saw a 2.5% increase. This year we're seeing a 2.1% increase in the national average of a youth pastor. And that brings the big, giant number to nationally $48,938 in annual salary only. That's not including benefits, just salary, in 2021.

Matt Steen: Okay. So $48,938, and that's nationwide average. Now before we started talking, you had mentioned that sometimes California might be a little higher. Can you talk a little bit about California and what some of our churches there need to know?

Dan Navarra: Yeah, so California is its own special thing, and if you're in California you know that. California's compensation ranks 16% higher than the national average.

Matt Steen: Why is that?

Dan Navarra: Well it's because of the wage loss here, right. So California has this year a tiered minimum wage of $13 an hour and $14 an hour. If your church has 25 or more employees, you're at $14 an hour. Now the problem is, there's a salary exemption law in California where you must be paid double the minimum wage. So if your church, say you have 25 employees, that's $14 and hour, times two to double it to $28 and hour, times 52 weeks a year, times 40 hours a week. That number, it's high. It comes out at $58,240. And so California is in its own planet. But what's interesting about this year's data is California's compensation didn't really change, the average numbers. It stayed pretty similar. And what that means is the other 49 states, even though the national increase is 2.1%, California didn't anchor it like it did a year ago with a 5% increase. So nationally we actually see more like 3-3.5% of an increase for average salary of the other 49 states.

Matt Steen: That's cool, and I think that's kind of important to mention. California has this minimum threshold number for exempt status. And I think nationwide what's amazing to me is for most states that minimum exempt number is somewhere around 36. And you have this huge number in California, which fascinating how all that works, but that's not why people are kind of here to listen to us I guess, not hear us rail against government because there's enough people doing that this week. So increase of 2.1% average across. The big number is the national average is about $48,938. Talk to me a little bit. As you've done this over the last 4 years, what are the biggest factors that you see that are affecting compensation?

Dan Navarra: For youth pastors specifically, the last 4 years at least it's always been this. Tenure and education are the two biggest factors that speak to the compensation package of a youth package. My numbers year over year are proven correct. Your college degree is worth about a 5% bump. If you and Jim are applying for the same job and you have a degree and they don't, 5% more probably for the person with a degree. And a seminary degree bumps it another 15-16%. So there's a big pay disparity and in my data over a third of youth pastors have now completed a master's. So the space is getting incredibly competitive whereas a decade or two ago there wasn't a lot of youth ministry majors out there. There just wasn't a huge market for it yet. And now we're seeing very specialized training at a collegiate and master's level, so you're seeing that start to affect compensation.

Matt Steen: Gotcha. And you said tenure as well. is there a sweet spot for somebody tenure wise?

Dan Navarra: There is. The magic number is 5 years. And if you've ever been a youth pastor and you've looked on job boards, you see this all the time. Churches want 3-5 years of paid experience as a youth pastor. They want somebody who's done it before, I get it. The issue that we're seeing is at the five-year mark we're seeing a giant pay bump, like over 10% pay bump in youth pastors. And what my data suggests is it's not because churches are giving big raises in year 5. It's because that youth pastor with that 3-5 years’ experience is taking their second job down the road at another church and that church is willing to pay about 10% more than what their current church is paying because of the combination of education and experience.

Matt Steen: Gotcha. So there's something to be said for cost of living and merit-based pay increases along the way with stability in that ministry almost.

Dan Navarra: For sure. You could literally piece it together like this. If I did 2% every year, that's a little bit less than a thousand dollars, but over 5 years that's a 10% raise and that makes your compensation package for your youth pastor extremely competitive. And then you've eliminated a lot of the factors of people saying hey maybe I should look at another role down the street. And that's at a relatively low cost.

Matt Steen: That's helpful. That's great. So you also saw a little bit of a differenc3 in how it played out based on gender, right? So men, women getting slightly different. Talk a little bit about that.

Dan Navarra: So last year's report had a deep dive on gender, so I'm not going to do a big umbrella on that. The link for last year's survey is in this year's survey if you want to do a deep dive on that. But what it suggests is the gender wage gap is still there for sure. Men in 2020 saw a 2.5% increase in their compensation across the board. Women stayed within $100. The female number didn't budge barely at all this last year, and that just tells me that it's still something that we haven't solved all the way. Last year I pointed to some good findings of things that were pointing to a more well-balanced pay, and we're still making progress in that but we have a long way to go.

Matt Steen: Cool, very cool. So talk to me, this year you did something a little bit different. You started to look at people's Enneagram and compensation and all that kind of stuff. Tell me a little bit about what you learned there.

Dan Navarra: Okay. So the Enneagram, the nine types, I thought it would be interested to see how compensation and Enneagram are correlated. And it didn't really surprise me a ton, but I think it still bears communicating. So the three highest earning numbers are a Three, a Seven, and Eight. And if you know the Enneagram, that probably doesn't surprise you based on who those people are, just what they are all about. The lowest earners were the Four and the Six. And in the survey, I talk about specifically the Six and why the Six might stay in a role a little bit longer than they should because they have these loyal tendencies and things like that. It was a pretty significant pay gap. But here's the thing about the Enneagram that I think surprised me the most. When we did the survey, almost a third of the respondents reported not knowing their Enneagram number or at least being able to say here’s the one I think I am. And the average salary of those people who did not know ranked as the third lowest. If we were to add a tenth number and that would be the tenth number, they were the third lowest. And so I think to me it points to one of the things that you can do to help yourself when it comes to compensation as a youth pastor is just simply know yourself. Know who you are and what your shadow sides are so that you can speak up. But also for churches that are hiring to understand that there’s youth pastors out there that are very driven and with that comes accomplishments and usually accomplishments are the things that look good on payroll. Just kind of understanding that and knowing that really helps you understand who your staff are and how you can best serve them.

Matt Steen: That's great, that's great. It's always good to be able to take that and be able to shape how you lead your crowd. So we're running out of time. We're going to honor your time. But one of the things that we've seen over the course of this last year is there's a whole awful lot of uncertainty, right? We've been through the apocalypse. We've seen everything that went on over the summer. We've seen everything that's going on politically and nobody has any idea which rider of the apocalypse is going to show up next. So with that in mind, we're seeing a lot of churches who are saying I don't know if I can do this 2% or 3% bump for my youth worker this year because, frankly, nobody on our team is getting a raise because we need to see what our giving's going to be come the end of first quarter, end of second quarter. To those churches, how would you advise them to care for their youth pastor if giving a salary increase this year just isn't in the cards?

Dan Navarra: Yeah, we’ve all been there, so I get that. If you can't do it on the dollar side, that's fine. You just can't do it every year, I understand that. There's a bunch of things you can do, simple things. What does it look like to give them maybe an extra few days of paid vacation this year. What does it look like to find somebody from the church who's got a cabin or a beach house or a lake house or something. Will they donate it for a weekend or for a week? Send them on a marriage retreat or send them to a conference or something like that because that's a different pocket in the budget sometimes. One of the things that you can do that's maybe a little bit better for certain types of youth pastors is on their workaversary, can you recognize them in front of the church? "Hey, Jim's been here 5 years and Suzie's been here 7 years, and we just want to honor them. Will you give them a round of applause? Pray a blessing over their next 5 or 7 years." Have the church write letters and say how grateful they are for the contribution of that youth pastor. I think that kind of validation and appreciation goes a long way when dollars can't do that. Not to say dollars take the spot of that, but I think it's a combination of all those things that will help you keep your youth pastor in place and a healthy fit.

Matt Steen: Definitely those things you need to be doing. Not just when you can't give raises, but absolutely. Being able to make sure everybody recognizes the contribution that they're making. That just makes for a healthy team in general. Dan, thank you so much for the work that you're doing with our churches in Chemistry and also the work that you've done on this survey. This is a really helpful tool. We'll have the links down below for everybody to be able to access that and be able to dig in a little bit more and also the information to be able to connect with Dan if you want to have further conversations about this. Dan, thank you.

Dan Navarra: Yeah, happy to help. Any time, send me an email.

Matt Steen: Great.


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