One of The Post Covid Church themes is the importance of leadership during these contentious times. A recent podcast (Letting God Lead) focused on re-thinking church and ministry leadership. Another tackled the importance of purpose (Purpose), and how pastors and teachers need to make sure followers of Christ embrace the Christian worldview and not think of the faith as just belief. What also needs to be stressed today is the increasing stress on pastors.
PROBLEM: Here’s a recent headline from a Barna survey that should make you pause: “7-Year Trends: Pastors Feel More Loneliness & Less Support”. “Pastors are no strangers to feelings of loneliness and isolation,” the report says. “In fact, Barna’s historical data show that these feelings have increased significantly since 2015 when 42 percent of pastors shared they either frequently (14%) or sometimes (28%) felt this way. Now, 65 percent of pastors report feelings of loneliness and isolation, with 18 admitting these feelings occur frequently.” A survey released last month from from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research shows that 49%—one half—of clergy said they “seriously considered leaving pastoral ministry.”
Now, anyone involved in church knows about the pressure on pastors. In these hyper-polarized times, that’s only gotten worse. Here’s a good example: A former Southern Baptist official says several pastors have told him they’ve been criticized by parishioners for being too liberal after quoting Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
It’s adding up to an astounding finding: Almost half of pastors surveyed by the Barna group last year said they’ve thought about quitting. “As of March 2022, the percentage of pastors who have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year sits at 42 percent,” according to the report. “This is consistent with data from fall 2021 when Barna first reported on a sharp increase in pastoral burnout, and it confirms the growing number of pastors who are considering resignation—up 13 percentage points from 29 percent in January 2021.” The immense stress of the job is reason one.
SOLUTION: America is less religious than ever in its history, and the secularization goes far beyond people simply walking away. Holding foundational, biblical views on marriage, sexuality and justice are now viewed by an increasingly hostile culture as not just wrong but worthy of punishment. Isn’t this the time for the church to unite to fulfill its mission to make disciples? Instead, there is more internal debate. Yes, pastors and staff need to be more willing to give up power and engage the “talent in the pews”. So too must members be more graceful and open to the fact that pastors are people too.
Rev. Dr. Glenn Packiam is author of The Resilient Pastor. In Barna’s The State of Your Church report he wrote, “We need sages to advise us, leaders to direct us or hold us accountable, peers to remind us that we aren’t alone, healers to dress our wounds and companions who carry us when we can’t carry on.” A good first step: Take your pastor for coffee and ask, “How’s it going….?”
Pastor Loneliness Study https://www.barna.com/research/pastor-support-systems/
Pastors Quitting Study Barna https://www.barna.com/research/pastors-quitting-ministry/
Pastor Quitting Study Hartford https://www.covidreligionresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Epic-4-2.pdf
Podcast on Leadership: https://www.thepostcovidchurch.com/2023/08/letting-god-lead/
Podcast on Purpose: https://www.thepostcovidchurch.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1205&action=edit
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