I am often asked about the amount a church should pay an interim worship leader. After discussing this with a number of other consultants on this issue, I present two “formulas” for determining a pay range.



If the open position is a full-time position with salary and benefits, take the salary portion (excludes insurance and retirement, but INCLUDES housing, social security offset, etc.).

Consider the full-time responsibilities carefully. What are the things this person did from week to week?

Determine what of those things you are asking the interim to do. Then determine what percent of the full-time work is included in the part-time work.

Take that percentage of the full-time salary minus insurance & retirement.

If you want this person to keep the status quo going, then that is a good baseline. If you want to engage in changes or build something new, then a higher level would be appropriate as a baseline.

Now, look at the candidate. Does he or she have a higher level of credentials, experience, abilities; are they pretty average; or do they lack many of the skills really needed? This will give you an idea on how to adjust the baseline.


For example, your worship pastor just resigned. He is paid $41,000 base salary plus $16,000 in housing. Additionally, the church pays $3,000 as a social security supplement since he is ordained. On top of that, health insurance, life insurance, and a percentage of his income for his retirement plan are paid. The salary portion would be $60,000. 

Your full-time worship pastor led the adult choir, senior adult choir, worship band, planned most of the worship service details, coordinated all media and music, handled communication with all personnel in worship ministry, coordinated the media team, scheduled all musicians for all services, oversaw children’s and youth choirs, provided pastoral care for people in the worship ministry, etc.

You want the interim person to lead the adult choir, worship band, plan most of the worship service details, coordinate media & music, handle communications, coordinate media team, etc. You choose to not ask this person to lead the senior adult choir nor oversee the children’s and youth choirs. You also do not require pastoral care at the level the full-time person provided.

Here you may be asking for 50-70% of the full-time job responsibilities. The baseline salary at the lower level of 50% would be $60,000 x .5 or $30,000 ($577/week). If the person is qualified and has the experience to come in and do this, and you are basically wanting to maintain things, this might be an appropriate amount to consider. If they are more qualified and you want to move the worship ministry in some way, then more may be warranted. Of course, if you are not able to find someone with the abilities, but you feel they are the one to do the job, less would be appropriate.

Obviously, many churches have a much less complicated slate of tasks for an interim person. Those with a more traditional instrumentation and approach may not demand as much time. Those without a choir would certainly demand less time. All of these factors should be weighed in with regards to compensation.


My colleague, Larry Grayson, formerly of Arkansas Baptists (now chair of worship studies at Ouachita Baptist University), notes a plan they have for their churches similar to the task-based method, but that deals with units of time. They divide every day into three units or blocks: morning, afternoon, evening. They then tell the church to count the number of units a full-time person “normally” works, i.e. Monday–morning, afternoon=2, Tuesday–morning, afternoon=2, Wednesday–morning, afternoon, evening=3, Thursday–morning, afternoon=2, Sunday–morning, afternoon, evening=3. That is a total of 12 units of work per week. The salary package = $62,400.00/or $1,200.00 weekly/$100.00 per unit. Then determine the number of units you will ask the interim to work. Monday afternoon for staff meetings, etc. (1), one night per week for preparation (1), Wednesday afternoon getting music prepared and Wednesday evening rehearsals (2), Sunday morning, afternoon and evening (3). That is a total of 7 units or 700.00 weekly.


A similar method, submitted by my colleague, Bubba Stewart,  is proposed by the Kentucky Baptist Convention:

The following is a formula based on weekly units instead of weekly hours and/or weekly worship services that assists in calculating the SALARY portion of an Interim Minister’s compensation.

1.      Each day has three (3) units (Morning, Afternoon, Evening).

2.      Each seven-day week, therefore, has twenty-one (21) units.

3.      On average, a full-time minister works thirteen-fifteen (13-15) weekly units per week. This assumes that the minister has a day off plus Saturday off each week and is based on five (5) days.

4.      Calculate the dollar amount of the total compensation package per weekly unit the church paid its former Pastor or amount budgeted for new Pastor whichever is greater.

  • Annual Compensation Package divided by 52 = Weekly Amount.
  • Weekly Compensation Amount divided by 13 to 15 Units = Weekly Unit amount.

5.      Determine the number of weekly units the Interim Minister will work per week.

  • Sundays should be counted at three units if there are one morning and one evening service.
  • Sundays should be counted as three units if there are only two morning services.
  • If there are two morning services and one evening service for a total of three services, Sunday should be counted as 3.5 units.
  • An additional unit should be added if the Interim is available for consultation and/or attends necessary meetings.
  • Allow at least two units for preparation and one for travel time. (At least 3 units)
  • Consideration for an additional unit should be given if the interim minister has to stay overnight.

6.      Pay the interim minister the same dollar amount per weekly unit as the church paid its former minister or the budgeted amount for the new minister, whichever is greater.

Weekly Unit Amount multiplied by Number of Weekly Units = Weekly Compensation for Interim Minister.

Note: Adjustments to this formula and the interim pastor’s compensation might have to be made depending on variable circumstances, which include, but are not limited to, the pastor’s experience, training, skills etc.

Protection Coverages:  A portion of the Interim Minister’s Compensation, at his discretion, may be designated as Insurance and/or Annuity and/or Housing Allowance. Such coverage should be agreed upon according to the Interim Minister’s personal needs, tax status, and current IRS guidelines so as to best benefit the Interim Pastor.

Reimbursable Expenses:  In addition to Salary, the church should pay Accountable Reimbursable Expenses (mileage, lodging, etc.) Such expenses should be paid separately from salary and in accordance with current IRS guidelines.



On top of all the determined amount of pay, the person should be reimbursed for mileage expense, especially if the person has to travel from out of town. In some cases, you may want to cover some meal expenses and overnight lodging costs, depending on the travel needs.


Another option is to divide up the job between more than one person. In that case, take the baseline derived from what portion of the work is to be covered and divide among the people who will take part in covering the work. For instance, if your church has two different services and you have different people covering each service, determine the workload for each and divide the baseline pay accordingly.


If the open position is a part-time position. Consider paying the interim the same amount if they have the ability and experience–perhaps more if more qualified and more is asked of them. Less would be appropriate if they do not have the qualifications preferred.


For a church with a choir, band, vocal team and associated communication and media, if done well, can easily take minimally 15-20 hours per week to keep the ministry in good shape during the interim. Requiring fewer parts of these needs can reduce the number of hours required. For an idea of what a part-time worship leader (also interim) as described in the first sentence of this paragraph may do, take a look at the series A Week in the Life of a Worship Leader.

The interim time is a great time to make some adjustments in the worship ministry to pave the way for the new worship pastor. Selecting the right person to lead in that change is an important decision. While the cost may be greater, you will find it is worth the investment.

Some churches try to get by as cheaply as they can during interim times. You can do much harm to your church’s worship if you bring in a person not capable of the task in order to save money. When compared to the total salary and benefits package of the full-time position, even opting for more coverage during the interim period will still see cost savings of around 50% of normal amounts.