Pastor Salary Guidelines for 2017-2018

Interpretive Comments
Geographical Units
Covenant of Understanding
Minister’s Retirement Fund Recommendations
Retirement Contribution Limits
Retired Ministers 

The Leadership Development Team of Mennonite Church USA provides guidelines for compensation of our pastors and conference ministers.  The goal is to be supportive of ministers and their families and fair to congregations and conferences. Our commitment to quality ministry is reflected in part in the level of compensation and the process that is used in determining it.

Each year the worksheet and interpretive comments are updated and a base salary is suggested.  Guidelines use education, experience, responsibility, and geographical location as factors in adding to the base salary.  These guidelines serve as a place to start and are recommended as a goal for compensation of pastors in Mennonite Church USA.   We say this knowing there are many dedicated pastors serving in our system who are self-supporting or bi-vocational.  In these and other cases the guidelines will serve as a conversation starter.  In these conversations generosity extended represents and cultivates the vital ministries we all value.

It is important to have adequate preparation time each year for completing the annual compensation agreement.  “Negotiating the Pastor’s Salary” lays out some very helpful steps for pastors and congregations in this process.  Particularly with persons new to pastoral ministry we suggest the topic of student debt be discussed in the negotiating process.  Congregations who would like to partner with a grant from the Lilly Foundation to help reduce the student debt of their pastor can learn more on this link.

These salary guidelines are updated each year around April 1.  However, with varying fiscal years, each congregation will have its own time frame for using these guidelines.

It is essential that financial arrangements are clear to all parties and written down. A sample Covenant of Understanding is available in a basic Word format, making it easy to customize.  A second Word template allows the user to choose options and fill in their information.

Although worksheets for salary, benefits and expenses are in one document, it is important for church officials to separate these items when reporting budget and expenditures to the congregation.  It is particularly important that financial reporting not leave the impression that expenses are part of a pastor’s salary.

Specifics for the 2017-2018 guidelines:

  • The base salary and unit values have been increased by 1.3%. Together with a step increase for experience, salary increases from these guidelines will be in the 2.6% to 3.1% range for most pastors.
  • The recommended IRS mileage reimbursement rate for 2017 is 53.5 cents per mile.
  • Geographical units are based on new data.  Because units will increase for many counties, a congregation may choose to spread the increase over more than one year.  Because the data source is expensive, current plans are to update geographical units again for 2020-2021.  See the Interpretive Comments for more explanation.
  • Salary calculation software (PC only) and/or a spreadsheet (PC and Mac) are available at without cost to member congregations and pastors of Mennonite Church USA. The salary calculation software makes it possible to add more detailed documentation for the calculations and does most of the calculations for you.  In addition, the information can be integrated into a Covenant of Understanding.  The spreadsheet is a simple way to calculate but does not include space for other documentation.


The goal of these guidelines is to help provide a financial guide that is supportive of ministers and their families and fair to the congregation in which they serve. With this end in view, these guidelines are offered as a resource for your congregation and conference in the coming year.  As always, your feedback and questions are welcome.

Partners in the Call,

Terry Shue
Director of Leadership Development