I work around a lot of missionaries and have been on the field myself. Many people want to compare their salaries and often wonder what missionaries make. As I learn more about the world and what is needed in every place a missionary is, I began to wonder.
How much money does a missionary make per year? The short answer is, every missionary will make a different amount per year based off of their family size, location, organization and more.
I have spent time interviewing and finding answers from those in charge of finances and home office for Bethany Gateways, a missionary sending agency. I have compiled their answers and found interesting facts, stats, and current outlooks that people have on missionaries and their salaries.
Stats on Salary
Statistically, salary is always based off of the cost of living. This is the main factor of a salary, including the missionary salary. There is no difference in the financial needs of a missionary living overseas, except in the way that money is made.
The actual salary of a missionary is dependent on a few things that I will break down more for you. The head of the home department of Bethany Gateways, a missionary sending organization, gave me great input about this topic.
Missionary salaries are like any other salary—it has to do with cost of living. The cost of living is so different from region to region that we customize budgets, and as such salaries, based on the region and needs there.Doug Goodmundson, Director of Finance and Operations at Bethany Gateways
A missionary’s salary, like anyone else’s salary, is based off of cost of living. The budget that a missionary creates for themself is not their salary. The money taken in is always taxed and put into different places, just like a normal salary.
Budget and Cost of Living
As previously stated, cost of living is what changes the amount of salary received. Julie Bergh, the Payroll and Communications Coordinator at Bethany Gateways also told me about the other important factors in the budget for cost of living.
The cost of living will include how much the rent or mortgage would cost for the location in which the missionary is living. It may also include the price of food, goods and transportation. This will be different in every location you are in, as a missionary. Just like the cost of living is different in every area of the United States.
As for what to budget for and things to think about for where your money will be going, there are a few things to think through. These include but are not limited to, raising a family on the field, how many kids you have, your location, housing food and ministry expenses. When you are working on your budget it is important to look at the percent your sending organization will be taking from each paycheck.
From Donations to Salary
There are many things that go into your donations which will fund you as a missionary. You may work with an organization that will completely sponsor you to go on the field, but the majority of sending organizations do not have the capacity to fully fund everyone of their missionaries.
Your financial partners will be funding more than just your ministry. Just like any other salary there are many things taken out, including taxes and retirement. If you are going with a sending organization you should expect for funds to be held for your home office, regional fees, health insurance, retirement, and ministry fund. There many be other things that your individual organization will withhold funds for, like an emergency fund, counseling or other services they may provide.
Once you have received donations, those different things I listed above, will have money held for whatever their purpose is, you then have your salary. This salary will be what you receive annually through monthly pay checks.
A current outlook that I find often when talking to people who don’t understand the missionary salary or lifestyle is that missionaries do not earn any money. This is clearly false, any missionary that is working for their funds and meeting with partners as well as following up is working a tremendous amount for their funding.
Being fully funded, if not overfunded, is the best place to be as a missionary. This is for multiple reasons, one being that money can be a big stressor for people, especially when overseas. Statistically, lack of funding is the second largest reason why missionaries return home from the field. Overfunded is a good place to be, because it gives leeway for the missionary if other financial partners drop their funds for any reason.
Be funded and don’t be shy of your needs.Doug Goodmundsen, Director of Finance and Operations at Bethany Gateways
Many missionaries have a hard time asking for things that they need finically. This should not be the case. Like Doug Goodmundson said, it is okay to not be shy about what you need. Those who are partnering with you should understand that things come up and funding can decrease at times.
If you or other missionaries have trouble with funding while overseas for a long period of time, the sending organization may require or suggest the missionary come home to develop more partners and touch base with current partners. This is in order to be fully funded before returning to the field.
Taxes, Retirement, and Insurance
All American missionaries are required to pay federal taxes on their income. Once you have been out of the country for a consistent period of time, you will not have to pay state taxes if you fill out a form saying that you are an expat. This may save the missionary money when tax season comes around annually.
Missionaries may also choose to take out retirement from their paycheck, like a 401k. If this is important to the missionary, it can be held monthly. When working with a sending agency they will give you what you can take out of your paycheck.
Insurance may be taken out of the missionary’s paycheck as well. This can either be taken out of the paycheck directly, or budgeted to be paid for my the missionary themselves. Many sending organizations will provide a service within their funds to have their insurance provided by the organization.
Family vs. Single
There are two categories that a missionary could fall under, a family or a single. Just like normal society, if you have a family, your income should be and tends to be a little bit higher than a single’s income, because it will be double. This is the same for missionary families and singles.
If you have a family on the field you will raise funds according to the cost of living for your family in the location you are serving. This is normal and acceptable. As for a single, you will only have to raise funds or be funded by your organization, for the amount of the cost of living in your location.
Whether you are on a family salary or a single salary, you are going to have a salary based off of that, which will always go back to the cost of living in the location you are ministering to.