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Gender Pay Gap in Youth Ministry Employment

Earlier this week we published Dan Navarra’s excellent Youth Pastor Compensation Survey report. And, rightly so, people in the comments of the report were curious is Dan’s research had discovered a gender pay gap. In other words, are full-time women in youth ministry paid less than men in the same role?

So I wanted to address this today– which also happens to be International Women’s Day.

I don’t want to hide my own bias. Generally, I want to see youth workers– all church workers– compensated better. Not just in pay, but also benefits, and opportunity. But specifically, I want to see women in youth ministry compensated for their work exactly the same as their male counterparts. Any gender pay gap is too much in my eyes. 

A Couple Caveats about Our Study that Impact Pay Gap Data

First, our data didn’t include gender in the initial design. We added it while the survey was collecting responses. Therefore, our data is incomplete when it comes to gender which is why we didn’t include it in the initial reporting. (Only 527 of 1336 responses asked for gender) We plan on having gender in the study next year. 

Second, while we broadcasted the survey broadly we got a disproportionate number of responses from males. Whereas, about 40% of Cartel customers are women only about 15% of respondents were.

Which leads me to…

Third, for some reason the survey participants tended to be from more evangelical churches and denominations rather than other denominations that might have different hiring practices and histories. For instance, evangelical churches seem have more lead youth workers who are male but often have a second youth ministry staff member who is female, so those roles are often paid less because they are organizationally an “assistant”. Again, we’re going to do better in the next round to get responses from a better cross-section of youth workers.

Lastly, we’re going to look at if the work “youth pastor” in the title unintentionally excluded participation. In some contexts the word “pastor” implies ordination, which may or may not have limited female participation.

OK, with all of that said let’s look at what the data showed us.

The Gender Pay Gap in Youth Ministry

Our report showed that females in full-time youth ministry reported making on average $6396 less per year than their male counterparts or $7,000 less when you look at the median.

Female: $39,611 average, $38,000 median salary

Male: $46,007 Average, $45,000 median salary

Men are making about 16% more than women. 

Why is This So?

I suppose there’s a lot of reasons, some of which I’ve already mentioned. Likewise, as I’ve already acknowledged the design of the study is limiting the exactness of the gap itself, it might be more and it might be less. But we have enough data to say that of the responses that included gender there was a wage gap.

So we acknowledge that our design might be part of the issue here.

But with that said there’s still a gap. And I think that this gap deserves more exploration because while there might be a wage gap my 20+ years in youth ministry tells me that beyond the wage gap there’s a hiring gap. Women aren’t pursuing vocational full-time ministry because of a male-dominated workforce, because of culture or denominational beliefs, so they are often eliminated from the hiring process before the hiring actually begins. It’s not just that they are paid less it’s that they are hired less! 

Pay Gap in Other Industries

As I’ve been reflecting on the youth ministry wage gap two things have been great reminders.

  1. There’s a gender wage gap in many industries that’s actually worse than what we’re reporting. (Read more about this on this well-sources Wikipedia page)

2. There was a recent Freakonomics podcast about a study done among Uber drivers, a ride sharing app where the apps assigning of work and payment is completely genderless, and their study still showed a 7% pay gap between male and female workers. In other words… even though these pay gaps aren’t fair, there’s a lot of factors to consider beyond just “that person is paid less because of their gender” which extend well beyond the employer side of things. Women make less at Uber, in part, because they are not as available as their male counterparts when it comes to the division of labor at home– Men are more likely to work at high volume times, and men are more willing to drive in high-risk areas where they might make more money.

Neither of those is an attempt to man-splain away the gender wage gap we’re showing in the data. But  I’m sharing those things because they offer context beyond church employment to societal issues more generally.

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2 thoughts on “Gender Pay Gap in Youth Ministry Employment

  1. Adam- great insight and analysis of our data. Can’t wait to go next level on this with the 2018 report!

  2. Anecdotal observation here: I’ve also noticed women in many professions, including full time ministry, are less likely to negotiate with an employer for a higher salary than a man. Women (myself included) seem to be more concerned that the employer will just pass them over if they ask for more. It might be worth adding a question to the next survey about whether or not responders successfully negotiated for a higher salary than what their church originally offered.

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