For those that find their way to our website, you know that we think that church has a vocation, a calling to participate in this world in such a way that seeks the flourishing of people and creation. And while we do so by recognizing the sacredness of everybody’s vocations, the last thing that should do is denigrate the vocation of the pastor.
In fact, pursuing the health and well-being of congregational leaders is centrally important to the church’s vocation in the world.
The good people over at the Center for Transforming Engagement, have assembled a very readable and impactful report on the unique expectations upon clergy. Their research gathers relevant statistics which are helpful on their own, but the comments from clergy regarding the unique challenges they face in the current cultural moment.
In a 2022 survey, 42% of Protestant pastors said they had given “real, serious consideration to quitting being in full-time ministry within the last year.”*
Study after study, this one included, reminds us that congregations often expect that pastors would be good at every part of a job “that can include up to 64 different task clusters and 13 working roles.” And while that simply sound like what any single parent might do, try doing that for a median clergy salary of $52,000. By the time you factor in a three year seminary education averaging $50,000, you can understand why “…9 of 10 Protestant pastors in the US, experience financial stress.” Of course, clergy aren’t in it for the money, but there are too many ways congregational expections in this area can lead to neglect at best or abuse at worst.
As you might imagine, there is also a heavy emotional load upon clergy who have to care for members experiencing emotional distress.
A number of research studies show that carrying a heavy emotional load, as many pastors do, increases psychological distress. Doing consistent emotional labor creates emotional exhaustion, lessens a person’s ability to regulate their own feelings, and decreases job satisfaction.**
Here is a link to the report. If you are a clergy person, take a look. The recommendations to reduce burnout include finding a peer group that provide safe spaces to share experiences. Also, seek resources to help manage the emotional burden of ministry… grow in self-awareness. This of course is what we at Flourish are providing in our Ministry of Thriving ecosystem.
If you are a member of a church, and particularly if you are a congregational leader, this report provides some great direction to care for your pastor well. Very helpful recommendations are on page 20 of the report. Download it for free.
If you are a partner in our work, thank you for coming alongside our efforts to form healthy leaders who can form healthy apprentices of Jesus who love their neighbors well.
* Shellnutt, K. (Nov 16, 2021). The pastors aren’t alright: 38% consider leaving ministry. Christianity Today. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/november/pastor-burnout- pandemic-barna-consider-leaving-ministry.html
** Kinman, G., McFall, O., & Rodriguez, J. (2011). The cost of caring? Emotional labour, wellbeing and the clergy. Pastoral Psychology, 60(5), 671-680.