Startling Statistics about Pastors

While preparing for a workshop I’m leading at our denomination’s annual meeting, I discovered some startling statistics about pastors (really, they are only startling to those who aren’t pastors).

(Below are just a few of the statistics compiled by the Schaeffer Institute in an 18 year long study from 1989-2007. Read the full report HERE.)

Hours and Pay

  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Training and Preparedness

  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Health and Well-Being

  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis.
  • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • 71% of pastors are burned out (beyond normal fatigue).
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, in their church, and in their home.

Spirituality

  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • 26% of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.

Marriage and Family

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% of spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Church Relationships

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

Longevity

  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within 5 years.
  • Only 10% of pastors will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • Over 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month.
  • Over 1,300 pastors are terminated by the local church each month.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

These are some pretty grave statistics, and frankly, I am not surprised. It falls right in line with what I’ve seen and experienced in my 12 years of pastoral ministry. Pastoring is an “all-in” calling. It’s not for the faint of heart. Many churches chew up and spit out pastors like chewing tobacco and they usually receive most of the blame for such statistics. And perhaps rightly so. But pastors must bear some of the responsibility for their own emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, and family health. Simply put, pastors: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will. Ministry is a high-intensity, high-stress occupation that nobody except for the ones called to it fully understand. You have to be proactive and diligent in building healthy boundaries, habits, and rhythms in your life or you will be just another statistic.

Furthermore, if your identity is in your church instead of in Christ, you are going to be sorely disappointed every time. If your relationship with God is confined to your church life, you will quickly become frustrated, disillusioned, and angry with God. Pastoring isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle. So pastors must order their lives in such a way that their lifestyle doesn’t consume them and their family.

I guess I’ll have to write more about what that looks like later.

2 thoughts on “Startling Statistics about Pastors

  1. Preach it. Have said many times that if you don’t find a way to take care of yourself, nobody will. Same goes for the pastor’s family. Militantly defending that margin is just about the only way to ensure your own kids and spouse don’t resent the church. Rare are the Christian communities that find ways to encourage their leaders. But they must do so as a model for taking care of one another and encouraging all member ministry.

  2. I have found most pastors who find themselves in rural ministry are uniquely unqualified for the position and view it as a vocation, not calling. It is an all-in position family included. As a Preacher’s Kid (PK) and a Preacher with children as well, and my wife being a farmer’s daughter. I chose and preferred rural ministry until a stroke sidelined me.

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