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Ten years ago, only 5 percent of senior pastors in Protestant churches in the U.S. were female. But in the past decade that number has doubled to 10 percent, according to a new study by The Barna Group.

The study, which Barna notes was “balanced according to the denominational distribution of Protestant churches in the 48 continental states,” compared results from a survey of 604 senior pastors in 1999 with those of a new survey of 603 senior pastors in 2009.

Researchers found that the largest percentage of women in senior pastor roles—58 percent—were in mainline churches, such as the Episcopal or United Methodist denominations. They also led smaller congregations, the study revealed. The average attendance of adults in churches led by male pastors was 103, compared to 81 in churches led by women.

Perhaps connected to this statistic was the finding that female pastors earned less money than their male counterparts. At the time of the 2009 study, the average compensation package for female pastors was $45,300 while male pastors averaged $3,300 more. This is intriguing in light of the fact that the female pastors who took part in the survey were more educated than the male pastors. Barna found that 77 percent of female pastors had a seminary degree, compared to 63 percent of men.

In The Foursquare Church in the U.S., 37 percent of all credentialed ministers are female (including senior pastor and other ministry roles). This reflects Foursquare’s official statement on who is considered qualified for pastoral leadership: “Anyone called by God and verified through character, spiritual experience and preparation for service or leadership is qualified for Foursquare Church ministry in any role or office, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity.”

Tammy Dunahoo, interim general supervisor of the denomination, summarized Foursquare’s empowerment of women in ministry in an interview with

“The board of directors has developed a plan to give focused attention to identify and remove all barriers that have hindered women called by God for leadership,” she said, adding that a full day at Foursquare’s annual convention this year was devoted to the importance of women in leadership ministry. “It is part of a leadership-diversity focus, believing God has called people of every generation, gender and ethnicity to lead His church in making disciples of all nations. Significant advances have already been made in response to the board’s intentionality.”

For more information on The Barna Group’s study, visit

By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles

is a credentialed minister and freelance editor living in Sacramento, Calif.