We have a problem with pastors. We have a problem with all teaching leaders. The problem is this: We always expect them to be around. We always expect them to teach and to lead. Sunday services are a time to be ministered to (among other things). That’s their job, right? That’s their calling. How is expecting them to be who they are called to be a problem?
I’ve often heard church services described as that time of the week when the faithful can come in, wash off the dirt from their week in the world and be refreshed, recharged and renewed. It’s an oversimplification, maybe, but I don’t think it’s an unfit description. I know that there have been times in my life when when I was at the lowest of lows and a single service brought me out of that.
Now, have you ever wondered what your pastors, youth and children’s workers do when they’re in the “lowest of lows”?
All day Sunday is work time for them. Mid-week services too. The rest of the week is filled with office hours, pastoral care, hospital and shut-in visitations, counseling, staff meetings and planning. Somewhere you have to cram in time for Bible study, research, sermon preparation and prayer. Of course you want to make time for non-sermon focused personal devotions.
Hopefully there’s time to spend with the family.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint. I think I can speak for other pastors, preachers and evangelists when I say, the work is fulfilling, rewarding, and a wonder to experience. But here are some numbers I want all of us to consider:
- 13% of active pastors are divorced.
- 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
- 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
- 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
- 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
- 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
- 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
- 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
- 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
- 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
- 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
- 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
- 70% don’t have any close friends.
- 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear,and alienation.
- 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
- 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
- 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
- 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
- 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
- 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
Go back and read those statistics again. Slowly. Let some of them really sink in. Now, make it personal. Read each percentage like this, “There is a 70% chance my pastor doesn’t have any close friends. “50% of the time, my pastor feels unable to meet the needs of his job.” Now read this…
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
October was Pastor Appreciation month. But the Church is losing 1,500 pastors every month. So I’m encouraging ever member of every local church to spend time not just in prayer for your pastor, and your leadership team, but taking some time to send an encouraging email, card or letter. When you see members of your pastoral team at church or around town, take some time to love on them a little bit. Most importantly, remember that the only difference between you and your pastor is that your pastor has been called to lead a particular local body. Your pastor is still human, still flawed, still susceptible to every failing that you are.
Secondly, I want to encourage other pastors. First, thank you for your work in and for the church.
Now I have to rebuke you (and myself).
Unless you’re a weird one, you don’t go around with red and blue tights with a giant “S” on the chest underneath your clothes. Even if you do go in for weird costuming, you’re still not Superman. No, you don’t have a weekly opportunity to “wash off the dirt from [your] week in the world and be refreshed, recharged and renewed.” But you can.
I take time every week to meet, either in person or via FaceTime/Skype with other pastors that I went to school or seminary with. Yes, we sometimes fall into the trap of talking about “church stuff”, but, usually we self-correct pretty quickly and spend that time encouraging each other, confiding in each other and being iron for each other.
Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other. – Proverbs 27:17
You can do that to. Technology has made it remarkably easy to have face-to-face interaction with people you trust. Pastors, Church Leaders… we all want to be Paul, but every Paul needs a Silas.
How can you encourage your pastor? If you are a church leader who is encouraging you?