This question is about the leadership in the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, such as the Directors of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, that are named in this Wikipedia article.

In this article at wol.jw.org, I read about the "Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses". About this, the article says the following in paragraph 19 (emphasis mine):

Currently, there are some 67,000 members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some perform Bethel service, others engage in construction or in circuit work, serve as field instructors or special pioneers or missionaries or as Assembly Hall or Bible school facility servants. They are all bound by a “Vow of Obedience and Poverty,” with which they agree to do whatever is assigned to them in the advancement of Kingdom interests, to live a simple lifestyle, and to abstain from secular employment without permission. It is not the people but their assignments that are viewed as special. They realize the seriousness of humbly living up to their solemn vow for as long as they remain in special full-time service.

I realize that "poverty" in this context does not need to refer to living in a clay hut that has no proper floor, running water, or electricity. Admittedly these people will have some "benefits" (room and board and health care and maybe transportation) because their role is related to the function that they serve in.

But I am more interested of anything beyond that, especially for the top directors or the "governing body" in Jehovah's Witness organization.

The question I wanted to ask is, are the top directors and the governing body in Jehovah's Witness organization also bound by this "Vow of Obedience and Poverty"? Or do they get some kind of market-based compensation (e.g. some CEO-level compensation) for their services?

(I would prefer an answer from JWs on this question)


1 Answer 1


Yes, everyone working at Bethel facilities has the same vow of poverty, including committee directors and the members of the Governing Body.

The Watch Tower Society is a nonprofit organization, and there are no salaries. The vow of poverty has both a legal and organizational purpose, as it affords tax exceptions as well as allows individuals to have the freedom to accept whatever assignment they may be given in the worldwide organization. Bethel facilities provide most, if not all, of the things needed in order to live at the facility, but a small set monthly allowance is also provided for any out-of-pocket personal expenses.

Here's a direct answer from a Q&A article on page 24 of the December 1, 1990 Watchtower.

Do any of the Watch Tower Society’s officers or members make money from your extensive printing activities?

Emphatically, no! By law, the Society is a nonprofit corporation. There are no stockholders, no dividends, not even salaries. Each minister at headquarters, including the Society’s president and directors, has taken a legal vow of poverty. He receives food, shelter, and necessary medical care, as well as a small reimbursement of money for out-of-pocket expenses. If a Witness travels on Society business, his travel expenses are usually covered.

In addition, nowhere in the world do our ministers charge for performing weddings, baptisms, or funerals. And there are no admission charges or collections at public lectures or conventions.

Even Brother Russell, the first president of the organization (before the Governing Body was instituted), received only a small monthly sum of money.

This is from the book, Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (emphasis mine):

Instead of using religious activity to acquire material wealth for himself, Brother Russell spent all his resources in the Lord’s work. After his death it was reported in The Watch Tower: “He devoted his private fortune entirely to the cause to which he gave his life. He received the nominal sum of $11.00 per month for his personal expenses. He died, leaving no estate whatsoever.”

With regard to those who would carry on the work of the Society, Brother Russell stipulated in his will: “As for compensation, I think it wise to maintain the Society’s course of the past in respect to salaries—that none be paid; that merely reasonable expenses be allowed to those who serve the Society or its work in any manner.” Those who would serve at the Society’s Bethel homes, offices, and factories, as well as its traveling representatives, were to be provided merely food, shelter, and a moderate amount for expenses—enough for immediate needs but “no provision . . . for the laying up of money.” That same standard applies today.

Those who are accepted for special full-time service at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses all subscribe to a vow of poverty, as have all the members of the Governing Body and all the other members of the Bethel family there. This does not mean that they live a drab life, without any comforts. But it does mean that they share, without partiality, the modest provisions of food, shelter, and expense reimbursement that are made for all in such service.

If you factor in inflation since 1916 (which was the year he died), $11 was worth around $260.

  • 1
    That's pretty interesting. Thank you for the answer, @4castle.
    – x457812
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    Also I was curious if there were charges for funerals or weddings and your answer has information about that as well which is good. But does this mean that the monthly money they get is to cover some of their previous months expenses, instead of being a set amount (like a stipend) they get each month?
    – x457812
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 16:54
  • 2
    @x457812 They receive a small set monthly allowance, but this is only for extra expenses. All medical, dental, haircut, food, laundry, transportation, and lodging are covered already.
    – user32540
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 18:35
  • Should the info in your comment be edited into the answer?
    – 007
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 12:14
  • @Kris I'm having difficulty finding a solid source to link to concerning their expenses (I'm just repeating what I remember from when I visited the headquarters last year), but I've now added the link I used in my comment.
    – user32540
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 21:50

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