Pastors deconstructed

Here’s some disturbing information about pastors in America that I read in a book called Pagan Christianity? The premise of the book is that certain traditions we Christians have (among them, a paid pastor who does most — if not all — of the ministry of the church) are rooted in unbiblical sources. True or false, the picture the authors paint of pastors is bleak. Here are some statistics:

  • 94% feel pressured to have an ideal family.
  • 90% work more than forty-six hours per week.
  • 81% say they have insufficient time with their spouses.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 70% have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 80% are discouraged or deal with depression.
  • More than 40% report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations.
  • 33% consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.
  • 33% have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.
  • 40% of pastoral resignations are due to burnout.

Ok, so this information tells us that many pastors have a horrible job and are on the brink of quitting or having a nervous breakdown — oh, and their families are falling apart. However, compare this with a study from the Barna group (full story here), which says:

At least four out of every five Protestant Senior Pastors said they do an above-average job – defined as either an “excellent” or “good” rating – in three of the 11 aspects of pastoral involvement examined. Nine out of ten said they are above average in preaching and teaching, 85% said they do well in encouraging people, and 82% claimed to be excellent or good in the area of pastoring or shepherding people. Nearly three-fourths (73%) said they do well in providing leadership for their church, while two-thirds said they are above average in motivating people around a vision (68%) and discipling or mentoring (64%). Six out of ten pastors claim they do well in evangelism (60%), while slightly more than half of all Senior Pastors say they are better than most in counseling (54%), administration or management (53%) and developing ministry strategy (53%).

What do these two surveys tell us? Pastors have a hell of a job, but they are doing a hell of a job? Actually, no. I tend to agree with George Barna, who says regarding the above paragraph, “It’s unrealistic for most pastors to claim that they perform at an above-average level in such a large number of disparate ministry duties as those examined in the study.” He suggests that what is needed is an objective evaluation process.

What we have now, apparently, is a bunch of overworked and under-resourced pastors who think that they are doing a great job.

Perhaps we do need to re-examine the traditional role of the pastor. There are 500,000 paid pastors in the US. Every month, 1,400 ministers leave the pastorate. Every month! The average length of a pastorate is just over four years — down from seven years in the 80s. I’m not surprised; who would want the job?

One thought on “Pastors deconstructed”

  1. I wasn’t discouraged until I read this and found out how disallusioned I really was… I quit! 🙂

    Nah, but a couple days ago, Aaron and I were trying to guess what percentage of my friends who went to Bible college are still in full-time ministry.

    First, we guessed that most of the ladies married pastors (not a role to be taken lightly)… then we made the following assumptions on guys that went to Bible college with us. We think:

    – 3 out of 4 graduates went into full-time ministry (church or parachurch)
    – 1 out of 4 graduates are still in full-time ministry just 10 years after starting

    In my relatively close circle of 10 college friends (guys and girls), I can only think of myself and then one girl who is involved in a parachurch organization.

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