ChurchSalary does not use an objective metric to define geographic setting as they vary widely between government agencies and demographers.
Instead, ChurchSalary asks churches and employees to self-report their geographic setting. At first glance, this may appear to be an imprecise and error-prone approach to classifying community types but, in truth, it is the exact opposite.
Using 2018 survey data and several different government classification schemes, the Pew Research Center conducted an extensive investigation to evaluate the best way to define whether a community is urban, suburban, or rural. Their analysis concluded that objective classification techniques fared no better than the subjective technique of simply asking respondents to classify where they live.
Accordingly, ChurchSalary follows this best practice and simply asks respondents to classify the “community type” where their church is located. These responses are used to produce a set of four averages in the Salary Comparison section in the Geographic Setting table:
- Metropolitan city
- Suburb of a large city
- Small town
The best way to clarify the terms above is to use four examples from the same general area of the country.
- Metropolitan city = large city (e.g., Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois)
- Suburb of a large city = suburban (e.g., Christ Church in Winnetka, Illinois)
- Small town (e.g., Good News Church in Woodstock, Illinois)
- Rural (e.g., Steward United Methodist Church in Steward, Illinois)
A decent way to think about your geographic setting is to ask yourself, How many traffic lights would I have to drive through to 'leave town?' If the answer is less than 3, you are probably a rural church. If the answer is somewhere between 3 and 10, you're probably in a small town. If the answer is a number so large you can't count, or you would have to get on the interstate and drive for 45 minutes, your church is probably in a large city.
Learn more about the different ways that community types can be characterized and the power of self-reporting your location in this article: "Evaluating what makes a U.S. community urban, suburban, or rural."