What is the Average Missionary Salary?

$12,000 is a Salary? by J Wynia on FlickrMost people don’t have the courage to ask a missionary this directly, but it is a question that many have.  Also, many missionaries don’t know how to answer it!

According to Simply Hired, the average salary for a job including “missionary” is $69,000 (!).  If you limit it to “Christian missionary,” then it drops to $39,000(!).

So what is the Average Missionary Salary?

Part of the difficulty in answering this question is that there is no average missionary.  Just like most careers, it is understandable that some missions roles will require greater salaries than others.

Consider the term of the missionary service.  If somebody is planning to serve long term (more than a few years), then most missions organizations recognize that there needs to be enough salary for the missionary to be able to serve there longer term.  If it is only a term for a few months or just one year, then the missionary can get by on a much smaller salary.  A longer term missionary needs to ride out some storms financially, and so a larger salary would be expected.

Also, keep in mind that there are many missionaries who do their missions work on a part time basis.  Or, sometimes only one spouse in the family is a missionary, and the salary is not an issue for them because the other spouse is the breadwinner, and so statistics online can get skewed easily.

It is difficult to compare a missionary’s salary to the average American’s salary.  The tax picture can get complicated because of living overseas.  Also, some missionaries have some benefits under the tax code because they are like clergy.  Each missionary is a little bit different, though, and it gets complicated.  Remember that not all places have lower costs of living than the United States.  Cost of living may be much higher in some places, and so a higher salary may be expected.

Examples of a Missionary Salary.

Pioneers has helpful information included in their manual (but no specific numbers are mentioned).

The Southern Baptist IMB says that the “average cost to support an individual missionary” is $52,000 annually (but what about families, and is that salary and ministry expenses??).

Bottom line – it’s really tough to find good information about average missionary salary.  Most sources are anecdotal, and they are not clear about what’s included, what’s not, etc…, and so it’s really tough to get a good feel for this.

Thankfully, I did find one resource that gives information with real numbers, and right now, it’s up to date!  ReachGlobal of Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) has the most helpful report you’ll find entitled Understanding Missionary Support.  If their example is “average,” then the average salary is roughly $6,000 per month (which includes housing).  Note that it looks like this is before taxes, so take home pay would be much lower, and it’s in Germany, which has a pretty healthy cost of living.

I was impressed that the missionary’s salary was based upon the average salary of an associate pastor in the United States.  This seems to be a wise guideline that the denomination can use.

I also learned that ReachGlobal is relatively large, and relatively old, and so that means they probably understand what resources are necessary for a missionary to serve long term.

For example, some agencies do not require health insurance. Maybe you’ve met a few missionaries that have incurred huge medical debt and had to leave the field.  I suspect that ReachGlobal has learned over the years that their missionaries have more longevity and are more effective if they do have medical insurance.

So, there’s the best answer I can give you: $6,000 per month salary before taxes (not the total support that has to be raised each month – that’s higher), for a family of four in a relatively high cost of living country.  Remember, that is supposed to match that of an assistant pastor.


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