Is the Average Monthly Support for a Missionary Crazy? (Follow-up)

Brett Jordan @flickrIs the Average Monthly Support for a Missionary Crazy? originally posted last October was one of the most popular posts of the year, and it continues to be one of the most popular.

Based on some feedback, I thought I would post some more thoughts about it.

Is the Salary of a Missionary too high?

I previously looked at ReachGlobal’s example of how funds are used for each missionary family.  The example was for a family of four in Germany.  It states that 54% of the $10,000 monthly support is for salary.  To compare this to the average US pay, we should also add the 6% for housing.

[Update: ReachGlobal no longer has this resource available on their website.  If it becomes available in the future, I will update the link.  At the time, it did say that 54% was for salary, 6% for housing, 12% for ministry expenses, and I don’t remember the rest.  Hopefully they will have it available again soon.]

So to compare apples to apples, we would conclude that this ReachGlobal missionary has a monthly salary of $6,000.

Previously, I showed that the extra cost beyond the salary was much lower than expected.  Using a managerial rule of thumb from the business world, we would expect the total cost of an employee with a salary of $6,000 per month to cost $16,200 per month.  Since $10,000 is required, it looks like ReachGlobal has done an excellent job of keeping those costs beyond salary down.

A lot of the feedback I get is from people who think that a $6,000 monthly salary for a missionary is too high – especially since it is higher than the average income in the US.

ReachGlobal states in their resource that their goal is to match the missionary’s salary with that of an assistant pastor in the US.  I have no idea how they determined that.  Perhaps they gathered information from the churches in their denomination.  In any case, ReachGlobal did set an expectation as to what the missionary’s salary should be.  I for one, think that trying to match it with that of an assistant pastor is reasonable.

Here are some Factors to consider about a Missionary’s Salary:

Most missionaries have both the husband and the wife involved in ministry.  Sometimes both work the equivalent of full time in the ministry, or sometimes one of them is at least part time in the ministry.  So keep in mind that this monthly salary may in fact be for more than one worker.

In addition to this, it is rare that a spouse can work another job even part time to make extra income.

Also consider that many of the missionaries sent full time with this support budget are experienced and trained in ministry.  They have training, education, abilities, skills, and gifts that are unique and needed for their ministry.  That is, not just your average Joe is going overseas as a missionary.

Cost of living can be a factor.  The example from ReachGlobal is a family from Germany that probably has a higher cost of living than where they were in the US.

Also, quality of living will probably be different.  What I mean by that is that rent may still be $1,000 per month, but the quality of the housing may be much lower than in the US.  So if a missionary has the same salary as an assistant pastor in the US, it may very well be that the quality of life and lifestyle may be much lower than the US assistant pastor.  (This is why considering quality while studying inflation bedevils economists.  For example, the same $1,000, even adjusted for inflation, buys you a much better computer than it did 20 years ago!).

Other Factors to consider in a Missionary’s Support Budget:

Educational expenses.  The family in Germany can probably use the local school system for their kids.  Many other missionaries, however, may have to budget funds to pay for a school’s tuition.

Visa fees.  Some missionaries serve in countries with very expensive visa fees.  They can easily be several hundred dollars per year for each family member.

Some missionaries have to travel a lot for their ministry.  Just as a business has to budget for their employees’ business travel, so too must some missionaries raise funds to cover all of their travel for ministry.

I’m sure there are other factors that we should consider regarding a missionary’s salary – but those are the factors I can think of now.

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