Why Your Pastor Left

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Pastors, Stress, Burnout, Depression & Eviction

My Random Friday post is a little less random this week. I’d like some help[p collecting data from my peeps, wherever possible.
Those of you who know me understand that my “normal life” or “day job” is as a youth worker with Youth For Christ (or what many would call a “youth pastor.”) I’ve got a pretty long history making me a veteran with nearly two decades of ministry experience (most of it within the context of direct vocational church work.)

I’ll be succinct as possible. The church world is hard, messy, impolite, and unforgiving. Churches tend to abuse, overwork, over-stress, underpay, and run off ministers who are called to nothing less than loving them anyway. A couple years ago I wrote a book about this based upon often quoted statistics that nobody has ever seemed to update that data. Why Your Pastor Left will come out later this year (I’m sure you’ll hear more about that once it’s ready for release.)

In the meanwhile, updating those statistics is something of a passion of mine. If YOU or a SPOUSE are, or have ever been, a vocational or volunteer minister (official ministerial staff) would you help me update those old stats? I want to get some accurate data (even though I use the same old verbiage as the original queries, which I understand can be less than perfect at times,) by simply updating those old numbers and see which ones remain relevant.
There is a form linked below… the data collected from my first 150 respondents have been enlightening (especially to see the difference in answers between ministers and their spouses), but I’d like to poll over 500 individuals. Please take 5 minutes to add your voice.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ReTpYsuxlG8I-Ur2IbBRKFjXBCtz54yP2tWkd9j6GnY/viewform

 

Below follows a collection of older, dated data collected from sources around the internet and reflects the contents of the appendices in Why Your Pastor Left.

 

(Quick Reference of Statistics and Resources)

From Wayde Goodall in “Handling Stress and Avoiding Burnout.”
Characteristics of Burned-out Ministers[1]

Feelings of apathy, anger, resentment Vulnerable to illness
Feeling let down Avoidance of office and daily work
Feelings of cynicism Changing churches (job change)
Blaming parishioners for personal problems Increased marital and family conflict
Rigid resistance to change Inappropriate humor at others’ expense
Avoidance of involvement with others Derogatory, impersonal references to members
Aloofness from others (withdrawal into self) Loss of concern and sympathy
Boredom, frustration, loss of enthusiasm Avoidance of social times with parishioners

Factors that contribute to Burnout[2]

  • Lack of awareness of one’s personal need for recreation and leisure
  • Unrealistic expectations about the nature of ministry
  • Limited opportunities for promotion, inadequate remuneration
  • Excessive commitment to work (workaholism)
  • Excessive need to be liked and accepted by others
  • Over-involvement in rescuing or helping others
  • Accepting too much responsibility for parishioners’ successes or failure
  • Equating parishioners’ rejections of help with personal rejection
  • Inadequate professional training in intervention skills
  • Parishioners who criticize one’s ministry
  • Constantly focusing on parishioners weaknesses and problems
  • Lack of opportunity to talk about personal attitudes, feelings, and trials
  • Long working hours
  • Inability to delegate (not enough help)
  • Frequent focus on the problems and negative aspects of ministry
  • Not being able to say no
  • Unrealistic blaming of self for lack of church growth
  • Feeling that one has to be at every church event
  • Feeling overwhelmed because of the great need
  • Not finding balance between ministry (work), family, rest, and play
  • Not maintaining a consistent prayer and devotional life
  • Being a loner in the ministry
  • Unresolved family and personal problems

[1]  Goodall, Wayde. “Handling Stress and Avoiding Burnout.” In The Pentecostal Pastor: A Mandate for the 21st Century, edited by Thomas, Goodall, Wayde, and Bicket, Zenas Trask, 160-169. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2000. 166

[2] Ibid. 167

Number Statistics Related to Depression Source
80% Pastors dealing with depression Life Enrichment 1998
84% Pastors spouse dealing with depression Dobson 1998
40%+ Pastors would self-diagnose they are suffering from burnout Dobson 1998
25% Pastors do not have a trusted friend in ministry Focus on the Family
75% Pastors reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
50% Pastors who feel unable to meet the demands required by the job Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
90% Pastors who felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
70% Pastors who say they have lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
40% Pastors reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
70% Pastors who do not have someone they consider a close friend Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
12% ministers reporting they were depressed “often or always in their ministry” Blackmon & Hart
70% Clergy who experience major distress Malony & Hunt
33% Clergy have considered leaving the ministry Malony & Hunt
$64 million Annual stress related claims within one denomination Southern Baptist Conv.
88% Pastor’s wives who experience depression Cecil Paul
23% Pastor’s wives who experience depression 1-2 times annually Cecil Paul
17% Pastor’s wives who deal with self-destructive thoughts Cecil Paul
81% Insufficient time with spouse Leadership 1992
71% Percentage of ministry families stressed by use of finances Leadership 1992
70% Percentage of ministry families stressed by income level Leadership 1992
20% Ministers suffering from long-term stress Thoughts & Trends 1992

 

 

Number Statistics Related to Church Growth/Decline Source
1,500≈ Pastors leave their assignments each month, due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention within their local congregations. Dobson 1998
10% Dismissed pastors who left pastoral ministry entirely Christianity Today 1997
4k-7,000 Number of churches closing each year Census Bureau
1000 New churches opening per year (20 yr avg) FASICLD
450 Average number of new churches each year between 1990-2000 FASICLD
50% Churches adding no new members in previous 2 years FASICLD
2,700,000 Church members becoming inactive per year FASICLD
27 Churches per 10,000 people in 1990 America FASICLD
11 Churches per 10,000 people in 2000 America FASICLD
5000000 or 9.5%- Combined membership decline of all Protestant denominations in the USA from 1990-2000 FASICLD
24000000 or +11% Population increase in USA FASICLD
-20.50% Total lost footprint given the above *calculated from above
-21% Church volunteerism since 1998 Barna 2009
-17% Sunday School involvement since 1998 Barna 2009
75% At any given time in America, percentage of ministers who want to quit. Church Resource Ministries – 1998
2,000+ Pastors leaving ministry each month Marble Retreat Ctr 2001
400% Number of clergy leaving the ministry during the first five years of ministry, compared with the 1970s Presbyterian Church survey 2005
1,600 Ministers terminated/forced to resign monthly Sunscape
99 Median number of adults who attend a mainline church on any given weekend Barna 2009
78% Christians who have not shared their faith in the last six months Lifeway 2014
55 years Median age of pastor Barna 2009
20% Churches with 2 or more paid staff members Focus on the Family
33% Clergy have considered leaving the ministry Malony & Hunt

 

fasicld frequecy poll

 

Number Statistics Related to Ministers’ Finances Source
40% Don’t have an opportunity for family vacation or continuing education. Barna 2002
70% Pastors whose compensation contributed to marriage conflicts Leadership 1992
22% Pastors who feel forced to supplement their church income Leadership 1992
$31,234 Average pastoral salary and housing package if serving a congregation of >1,000 attendees Census Bureau
40%+ Single Staff Pastors who feel underpaid Thoughts & Trends 1992
33% Senior Pastors who feel underpaid Thoughts & Trends 1992
50% Pastoral Salary increases versus minimum wage Thoughts & Trends 1992
90% Pastors who work more than 46 hours a week Fuller Institute 1991
60% Clergy whose wives hold full time jobs or are involved in careers Malony & Hunt
71% Percentage of ministry families stressed by use of finances Leadership 1992
70% Percentage of ministry families stressed by income level Leadership 1992

 

Number Statistics Related to the Pastoral Family Unit Source
84% Pastors spouse dealing with depression Life Enrichment 1998
47% Believe their Pastor-Spouse is suffering from burnout Dobson 1998
80% Clergy who feel their families have been negatively impacted by the church Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
33% Believe ministry to be an outright hazard to their families Fuller Inst. Church Growth 1991
25% Pastors who don’t know where to go for help with personal or family conflict or concerns Barna 2002
40% Don’t have an opportunity for outside renewal like a family vacation or continuing education. Barna 2002
94% Ministers who feel pressured to have an “ideal family” Leadership 1992
77% Ministers’ spouses who feel pressured to be “an ideal role model for the Christian family” Leadership 1992
88% Pastor’s wives who experience depression Cecil Paul
23% Pastor’s wives who experience depression 1-2 times annually Cecil Paul
17% Pastor’s wives who deal with self-destructive thoughts Cecil Paul
81% Insufficient time with spouse Leadership 1992
63% Percentage of ministry families stressed by congregational differences Leadership 1992
71% Percentage of ministry families stressed by use of finances Leadership 1992
70% Percentage of ministry families stressed by income level Leadership 1992
28% Pastors who said “ministry was a hazard to family life” Thoughts & Trends 1992
53% Pastoral family having difficulties raising children Leadership 1992
56% Ministry family suffering sexual problems Leadership 1992
35% Ministry family experiencing differences in ministry career Leadership 1992
25% Ministry family experiencing differences in spouses career Leadership 1992

 

Number Statistics Related to Pulpit Eviction Source
91% Pastors know 3+ peers who have been forced out of pastoral positions Christianity Today 1997
34% Polled ministers serving congregations who either fired the previous minister or actively forced his or her resignation Christianity Today 1997
23% Number of current pastors who have been forced out at some point in their ministry. Christianity Today 1997
10% Dismissed pastors who left pastoral ministry entirely Christianity Today 1997
43% Conflicting church vision/direction was a precipitating cause of their termination Christianity Today 1997
38% Personality conflict with board member(s) was the cause of their termination Christianity Today 1997
13% Of pastors forced out, these were directly fired Christianity Today 1997
58% Of pastors forced out, these were forced to resign Christianity Today 1997
29% Of pastors forced out, these resigned because of the perceived pressure Christianity Today 1997
66% Terminated pastors cited “conflicts with power-ful members” as a partial cause for eviction Southern Baptist Conv.
78% Percent of churches evicting ministers which previously terminated pastors or staff members Southern Baptist Conv.
2,000+ Pastors leaving ministry each month Marble Retreat Ctr 2001
400% Number of clergy leaving the ministry during the first five years of ministry, compared with the 1970s Presbyterian Church survey 2005
1,600 Ministers terminated/forced to resign monthly Sunscape

 

 

 

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