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Highest-Paying Christian Denominations

  • Presbyterians
  • Baptists
  • Evangelical Lutherans
  • Catholics
  • Independent Ministries

In recent years, a lot of attention has been focused on the pay and benefits received by  members of the clergy  in America. As it turns out, it’s not always the well-paid gig it’s cracked up to be. Many ministers and pastors see a lot of their pay lost to benefits, with a varying range of usefulness, or lost to taxes that religious organizations still have to pay. The highest-paid church denominations in America are a different story; they compensate members of their clergy quite generously, often based on performance. This is generally seen as leading to the encouragement of outreach programs, which bring in more people to their congregations.

Here are five of the highest-paying Christian denominations in the United States today:


While the difference between average pay rates for members of the clergy can be inconsistent at entry levels, senior Presbyterian ministers have a higher median take-home than the members of any other religious denomination in America. The average is nearly $80,000 per year for the most senior members of the Presbyterian church. This amount does not include money provided for housing, or the cost of a parsonage; Presbyterian ministers may go either way, and (unlike the case in some smaller donations) their living expenses are not lumped into that compensatory figure.


Senior ministers and pastors within the Baptist church are the second highest-paid Christian denomination in modern America. They take home almost $68,000 per year, on average. As with the Presbyterians, Baptist ministers may have either a separate stipend for living expenses or a dedicated parsonage to house themselves and their families. Also, like the Presbyterians, the Baptists don’t include this benefit as a de-facto part of annual take-home pay. Both church organizations feel that doing so is fundamentally dishonest.

Evangelical Lutherans

The Lutheran church is organized differently from many other denominations popular in America today, with many similarities to the forms and traditions of the Catholic faith still being present. Evangelical Lutheran ministers make approximately $50,000 per year on average, a figure that includes junior, as well as senior members of the ministry (the disparity between members of the clergy, based on seniority, is not as stark in the Lutheran church).


At first glance, the average Catholic priest’s take-home of approximately $36,000 per year may not seem like much. However, the Catholic church handles a lot of the benefits and tax management requirements that protestant churches leave to the individual clergyperson. Room and board, and living expenses, take a significant chunk out of what many ministers and pastors earn in other faiths; along with healthcare expenses, these are things that most Catholic clergypersons don’t have to worry about.

Independent Ministries

Independent pastors have the potential to earn as much money as they are able to bring in through their congregations’ donations. Many independent megachurches earn their senior ministers millions of dollars per year, but the top spot has to go elsewhere, since results are highly inconsistent; technically, the median take-home for independent ministers is lower than that of the major denominations. However, it’s worth noting that, on average, independent clergywomen take home more money on average than their male counterparts: $49,000 annually, as opposed to $45,000. In the case of independent churches, housing stipends are factored in where they occur, as not all organizations offer this benefit.

Most Christian denominations will assert that some form of a calling, or a mission, is the primary requisite for joining the ranks of the clergy, but this doesn’t mean that those individuals who respond to the call shouldn’t be able to survive day-to-day. The  highest-paid church denominations  recognize the value of the services that their respective clergy members provide, and the necessity of offering incentives to reach out to new audiences.

Related resource:

Top 25 Cheap Online Theology and Christian Studies Degree Programs

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