According to Salary.com, the average salary for pastors in the United States is between $70,000 and $90,000, a figure that squares with what I'm familiar with in my area. The Huffington Post on the other hand, breaks it out, but puts the numbers much lower:
Both Reform and Conservative rabbis earn an estimated average annual salary of around $140,000, while the median salary for full-time pastors at Protestant churches was just $40,000, the Jewish Daily Forward reports. Catholic priests and Muslim imams make even less, with average salaries of about $25,000 and $30,000 per year, respectively.
Contrast all of these with the current U.S. Poverty Line of $15K for 2 people / $23K for a family of 4, and you will see that in all of these cases, the actual salary is sufficient for a family. Maybe not generous, but sufficient.
In those cases where you are just starting out, it is low, but usually livable. And, when it's not, many turn to "bi-vocational ministry," meaning you take two jobs to make ends meet.
What these numbers miss out on, in the United States, however, is probably the coolest benefit of being ordained - namely that your housing allowance is tax free. If you own your own home (and any pastor with a parsonage does not!), then you get to double dip. Here's what I mean:
Assume my mortgage is $15,000 / year, with $10 K of that being interest, and $ 5K principal.
Because it is a mortgage, I get to deduct that $20K from my AGI, meaning that as a normal person with, say, a $50,000/year salary, I would be taxes on $40,000 of that.
As an ordained person, however, I'd arrange with my church to not pay me $50K, but rather only $35K + $15K Housing Allowance. The $15K Housing Allowance is not taxed. As such, my AGI is now $35K - $10K = $25,000 a year. A pastor is thus being taxed a lot less.
Ordained persons also have the choice of paying Social Security or not. If they don't pay in, they don't get to receive, but they don't have to participate if they choose not to.
In other words, the tax advantages of being clergy are pretty great. With so many deductions, your dollar goes further.
Full disclosure, when I had my own church, my predecessor made $36,000/year. I chose to only take $18,000/year, but I also was pulling in well over six digits from my programmer job. This was a very, very small church, and I wanted them to give more away to better causes. Still, the tithes of that church were able to support each salary at the appropriate time. Most Baptist churches operate directly from the individual churches' tithes. More hierarchical denominations sometimes fund vicars directly, but usually each church is responsible for paying its own staff.
I give these numbers to say that pastors won't be rich, but it isn't that difficult to live on it either