In Roman Catholicism the clergy is predominantly celibate and hence there is no pressure of sustaining a family.

What exactly is the system in a Protestant clergy? Are they employed in a gainful job, in addition to being involved in preaching? If so, how do they make time for God as well as for family? How do they sustain their family?


There's no singular answer to this question, and you'd likely see tons of different situations depending on the pastor and his church.

At my church, the pastor is full-time, and his salary is paid out of a portion of the tithes given to the church. However, in some situations, pastors must find another job in order to pay the bills, typically because they're working in a smaller church where the tithes are not large enough to support him. I've known pastors who are in this situation as well. They'll work a factory job or something low-key and low-demand so that they can support themselves as they typically treat their clergy role as their "primary" job, even though it doesn't pay well enough to support a family.

Some protestant churches, however, are also set up in denominations, where the salary is paid by the denomination, and tithe money typically rolls into the denomination and not directly into the church. It just depends on the situation.

Each church is different.

As for balancing time, again, just like any job, some have effective time management, and some don't. My brother is a pastor, and he manages his time with his family by simply carving out time that is devoted to the family, and regularly blocking that time out so that he can properly perform his role as father and husband. Other pastors may not have the same time management skills, and may indeed neglect their families to serve a "higher call". This is an unfortunate fact that happens all too often (hence the stereotype of the "Pastor's Kid", who ends up being a wild child, largely due to his father's neglect).

Ultimately, the married clergyman would have the same approach to supporting his family as the unmarried clergyman would. He would have to trust God to meet his needs, as well as the needs of his family if he has one.

  • For unmarried clergy it is a bit different as they would not have any immediate family members to sustain. But still in Asian region as there is a culture of children looking after their parents in their old age, the clergy many a time feel neglected in the society in their old age. Of late they have started having old age homes for retired unmarried clergy. – Seek forgiveness Feb 22 '13 at 3:39
  • It's not really THAT different. In one situation, someone has to support themselves. In another, they have to support themselves and others. It's a matter of simple scalability. Are the resources sufficient? That's really the only question. As a married man, I still had to support myself when I was single, but when I got married, I still had to support myself, I just also had to make it work for my wife as well. – David Morton Feb 22 '13 at 12:19

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

  • 1
    that salary level seems abnormally high for most pastors in this country – warren Feb 21 '13 at 21:32
  • @warren I'd keep in mind that much of that salary average of 90,000 is probably skewed by a few megachurch pastors (the likes of Osteen, etc) who are earning far more. The median is probably more worth looking at in this case to get an estimate of what most pastors make. Of course, officially, Osteen makes no salary from the church, but his income from some of his book deals is estimated at around 13 million for advances. – David Morton Feb 21 '13 at 21:58
  • @DavidMorton - that's a fair point. It still seems awful high for most churches :) – warren Feb 21 '13 at 22:01
  • Northern Virginia is a pretty expensive area- but around here, of the 8 pastors whose salaries I know, they are all in the $80k plus range- this includes baptists and episcopalians, with churches in the 100 to 500 range – Affable Geek Feb 21 '13 at 23:20
  • But their sacrifices are also too great to compare with what they get. – Seek forgiveness Feb 22 '13 at 3:42

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