11 Financial Insights from 727 Large Churches

Warren Bird and Leadership Network have again released a study that church leaders need to pay attention to! This time they’ve set out to study 727 large churches (1,000-30,000 in weekend attendance) through the Leadership Network/Vanderbloemen 2014 Large Church Salary Report. You should take some time to dig through this report, because you’ll find some fascinating insights into the operation of churches making a difference in their communities. Here are some findings that jumped out to me…but I’d like to hear what you noticed!

  • Large church staff to attendee ratios range from 1:51 to 1:90. // How big should our staff team be? It’s a common question that church leaders struggle with all the time. One benchmark often thrown out there is that a “healthy” church staff to attendee ratio is 1:100. This study shows that only a small fraction of churches with over 10,000 people achieve the mythological 1:100 benchmark. Effective churches have a wide variety of church staffs.
  • The larger the church the more likely they are multisite. // Multisite continues to be a mega-trend in churches across the country. Multisite allows churches to diversify based on location and offer more “open seats” during prime hours. If your church is growing, you should consider multisite as a strategy to continue making an impact in your communities.
  • 81% of large churches offer online giving options. // These churches are as likely to pass the plate as they are to offer online giving options. This is a massive swing in just a few years as online giving is clearly becoming a preferred method for people to give to churches and charities. Does your church offer simple and straightforward ways for donors to support the mission of the church online?
  • The bigger the church the younger it is. // Lots of people state that younger generations prefer smaller churches…but the numbers tell us that large churches have younger average ages than their smaller counterparts. To grow your church you have to attract and retain younger people. What strategy are you using to reach the next generation at your church?
  • 1 in 5 large churches outsource graphic design work. // Outsourcing is a growing trend in how churches get work done today. I’ve written about this is the past but it’s worth noting that we’re seeing it come up in reports like this. In fact, this report includes a bunch of areas where churches are finding less traditional approaches to staffing through outsourcing. There are often specialized tasks that your church needs done that can’t be covered by your ministry staff or you want to add a new ability to your team…outsourcing can be a great solution!
  • The larger the church the less the giving per capita. // Large churches are reaching new people all the time. That means they are always working to integrate new donors and members into their ministries, driving down the giving per capita. This forces large churches to be even more efficient operationally than their smaller counterparts. As your church gets larger you need to find economies of scale to help you serve more people with less resources per person. How are you evaluating the “efficiency” of your ministry?
  • Canadian church leaders make less. // On average Canadian church leaders make 23% less than their American counterparts. Canada represents a massive mission field for the gospel. Everywhere in Canada is far more unchurched than anywhere in America. Some reports show low single-digit percentages of people attending church north of the border. Does this pay issue keep leaders from traveling north to serve? What impact does it have on the ability of the Canadian church to reach its communities?
  • 60% of churches contribute more than 6% of salary to retirement plans. // Often salary and health benefits are the only two factors that church leaders consider in their compensation packages. But this report shows that large churches are paying out significant sums to the retirement plans of their leaders…particularly senior leaders. How can your church structure its financial package to help your staff save for the day when they aren’t serving any longer?
  • 74% of large churches are growing. // Big churches are getting bigger. In fact, almost a third of the churches surveyed are growing faster than 10% a year! Again, there is a hip idea that the day of the large church is over, but the statistics don’t agree.
  • The most watched metrics are attendance, giving, baptisms, guests & small groups. // What gets measured gets managed. There are literally hundreds of metrics that leaders could use as benchmarks to better understand what is happening at their churches. I’m encouraged to see that the trend is broadening beyond just noses and numbers (giving and attendance) to a few more nuanced metrics that might point toward life change. What are you measuring at your church? What are you doing with the insights you’re gaining from what you measure?
  • Merit-based pay is a growing trend. // A small part of the report talks about how some churches are moving toward incentive-based pay for church leaders. No doubt this will be controversial for many churches. The reality is that incentive pay is a way to motivate leaders and ensure their goals are lined up with what is important to the church as a whole. What do you think about adding some incentive pay to your structure? Check out this article for some guidance on this area: Guidestar Presentation on Nonprofit Incentive Compensation.

Make sure you download the Leadership Network/Vanderbloemen 2014 Large Church Salary Report. It’s free and it offers a bunch more insights on how churches are compensating their leaders. I’d love to hear your feedback on what stood out to you from the report!


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.