Christianity Today International:

Matt Branaugh, 630-260-6200;


Leadership Network:

Warren Bird,

Carol Stream, IL April 6, 2010—With many congregations facing tighter budgets as they weather the worst economic recession in decades, a recent survey of U.S. church leaders by Christianity Today International and Leadership Network shows that a small percentage of churches are able to continue doing ministry while keeping staffing costs—the single-biggest expense for nearly every church—well below national averages.

The [“Lean Staffing ”] survey, taken in February by 735 leaders of Protestant and evangelical churches, shows that 1 in 7 spends less than 35 percent of its annual budget on staffing costs.

Historically, churches in recent years spend, on average, about 45 percent of their total budgets on staffing costs—and sometimes more.

The “Lean Staffing” study separated 539 respondents to generate the "lean staffing" comparison: 15 percent of that group spends less than 35 percent on staff, while the rest spend between 35 percent and 65 percent. The study used 35 percent or less as a benchmark since it represents a sizable decrease from national averages and helps with statistical comparisons, said Warren Bird, director of research at Leadership Network.

Besides identifying churches that spend less on staffing, the study also found “lean-staffed” churches typically spend more on ministry efforts outside of their walls, Bird said.

“There are churches that seem to be healthy and outreach-minded that do, indeed, have a lower percentage of their budget going to staffing costs. It can be done,” Bird said. “That was very affirming.”

A full article detailing the survey’s key findings is available at

A 46-page report on the survey results is available for free at

Christianity Today International is a not-for-profit Christian media ministry founded by Billy Graham in 1956, with 9 publications and an award-winning website reaching more than 2.5-million unique visitors monthly.