Why should you care about all the issues facing other pastors? You've already got enough on your plate.
Sure, you may be experiencing a little bit of pastor burnout. But who isn't? As for church attendance... you take those with a grain of salt. How do you even count someone who attends your church half the time remotely?
And thank the Lord your church hasn't shut down like so many others in your area.
What if I told you that you're not special? What If I told you that statistically speaking, it is impossible for you to NOT be experiencing at least one of these struggles that pastors are feeling across the world?
Here's the scary thing: If you don't take a moment to reflect on these issues that other pastors are facing, they could happen to you when you least expect it. Here are 7 issues to avoid, along with a reason to have hope.
I placed pastor burnout at the top for a reason. It's everywhere...
A lot of ink has already been spilled on the topic. That's because this is, by far, the most pernicious issue facing pastors today. An overwhelming 75 percent of pastors report › feeling apathy, 63 percent are stressed, 55 percent are overworked. Most say they are inconsistent with taking a Sabbath, mostly due to growing demands on their time preventing them from regularly resting.
The senior pastor is typically expected to be all things to all people in a way that is not feasible. This dynamic often manifests itself as the pastor doing nearly all of the work that needs to be done to keep the church going. Sooner or later, this eventually leads to disengagement, or "burnout".
This is enough of an issue on its own. But sustained burnout leads to another problem...
Related to burnout, pastors report increased stress and loneliness.
Lifeway Research found over half of all pastors › report sustained levels of stress, and over a quarter report feelings of loneliness. What makes this issue more difficult is that it's two-fold. Pastors have to manage their own mental wellbeing, while acting as quasi-mental health professionals for their congregations.
Ministers provide pastoral care to congregants dealing with mental health issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse in addition to balancing their own mental and spiritual health. Unless pastors find ways to be poured into, this dynamic cannot be sustained long-term.
Those are the internal struggles American pastors are reporting. There are tremendous external challenges as well.
Recent social discord gave rise to large-scale societal shifts. I don't know of a single church that wasn't affected in some way by the loud, persistent tension that swept across the country over the last few years.
Navigating these social issues was difficult for everyone. Many American pastors felt like they were walking through a minefield as they tried to disciple their church through each new conflict. In some cases, pastors saw people leave over political disagreements that were not dealbreakers before.
The Institute for Family Studies released a report › last year showing the decline in church attendance. A recent Pew Research study › found that if current trends remain steady, Christians will comprise half of the population in America by 2070.
Churches everywhere are seeing reduced attendance compared to pre-lockdowns. However, the attendance trends were well-established before COVID, everything that came after merely put the trends into overdrive.
As attendance declines, so do donations. While some tools like recurring online giving › have helped keep church income steady, most pastors have struggled to keep donations ahead of expenses.
I don't have data on this, but anecdotally speaking, this could very well be the #1 source of the stress church leaders are feeling that I mentioned earlier.
Each of these issues alone is a heavy burden to carry. But over time, when added together, they inevitably lead to the same question...
Wading through signs of burnout, fewer people are coming year over year, and increasing financial stress, have pastors of churches everywhere wondering if it's worth it to keep going.
It's hard to get a true grasp on church closures since 2020. The last year Lifeway gathered intel on church closures › was 2019. Even then, closures were far outpacing new church plants. Following lockdowns, many churches were unable to stay open. We probably will not fully know the impact of the last few years for a while.
But this guesswork isn't so abstract for the ministers who have had to make the difficult decision to close the doors of their church in recent years. According to Barna, 42 percent of pastors admitted to thinking about quitting full-time ministry in 2022.
Despite all of the above challenges, pastors still show up and do the work they've always done. They're writing sermons, visiting the sick, planning for an uncertain future, and keeping their pastoral ministry plates spinning, all while trying to set an example of the faith. No matter what's happening around them or how they're doing, they just keep going and going and going.
The social calamity that dominated the news cycle has waned. Lockdowns are becoming more of a distant memory. Our rhythms are returning back to normal.
Many churches are reporting a return in numbers. While most still are not 100% back to 2019 attendance, churches are seeing a return of former members ›, as well as new people considering their church.
Also, churches are uniquely positioned to address the loneliness crisis › across the country. Church communities are still lights shining in the darkness. With some effort, we can help heal broken hearts and lives, like we always have.
There is work to be done. Pastors and other church leaders are the perfect people to do the work. I have hope that there is a great harvest waiting for us.
Think of this post as a love letter to the pastors in the trenches.
Perhaps you're one of the pastors I've been writing about above. You've felt the pressure and have worried greatly about the future of your church. There is nothing I want more than for you to know that we are here for you.
ChurchTrac was made by ministers who know the challenges you've faced because they have faced them, too. We are not a software company; We are your partner in ministry ›
We also have a wonderful Facebook group you can join › that's filled with thousands of ministry leaders who understand your experiences uniquely. I might be biased, but I think it's the best online community you'll find anywhere.
Keep building the church!