Study Shows American Pastors Are Quitting The Pulpit At A Record Pace, Here Is Why

Written By BlabberBuzz | Sunday, 08 May 2022 20:30
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Driven to despair in light of stress, loneliness, political divisions and other worries such as their church failing, more pastors now say they considered quitting their jobs compared to a year ago, new data released by the Barna Group proves.

The research draws on data collected from surveys conducted in January 2021 and March 2022 that show the share of pastors who have given serious consideration to quitting being in full-time ministry within the last year, increasing from 29% in 2021 to 42% in March of this year.

Data collected for the 2021 study was collected online from 413 Protestant senior pastors from Jan. 22­–27, 2021. While the data collected from March 10–16, came from an online survey of 510 Protestant senior pastors.

Over half of the pastors, 56%, who considered quitting full-time ministry in the last year, expressed, “the immense stress of the job” was a huge factor behind their thinking. Beyond these general stressors, two in five pastors, 43%, report that “I feel lonely and isolated,” while some 38% say “current political divisions” made them consider resigning from the pulpit.

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An equal 29% share of pastors also said they felt the urge to quit because they weren’t optimistic about the future of their church; they were unhappy with the impact the job had on their family or they had a vision for the church that was in conflict with where the church wanted to go. Another 24% of pastors say they considered leaving because their church is steadily declining.

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While pastors who have not considered quitting experience some of the same challenges highlighted by those who have considered it, the research indicates that the difference-maker for them is their mindset to ministry.

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A whopping 83% insist they did not consider quitting because they believe in the value of their ministry; 75% say they have a duty to stay and fulfill their calling to ministry, while 73% express they are satisfied with their job. Most pastors who have not considered quitting also cite strong family and community support and confidence in their ability as leaders.

The March measure of discontent among pastors also reflects a steady increase in the share of pastors who reported last October that they were “seriously considering” leaving full-time ministry amidst the struggle with their overall well-being amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to four out of 10 mainline Protestant pastors, or 38% of them, revealed they were “seriously considering” leaving full-time ministry in October.

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Joe Jensen, Barna’s vice president of church engagement, informed The Christian Post at the time that the growing number of pastors now looking to leave their full-time positions is cause for alarm. “This particular stat, this is the highest we’ve ever seen it,” Jensen exclaimed, pointing to the burnout he believes many pastors are experiencing in the wake of the pandemic.

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“We’ve been tracking this in our State of Pastors report that we did with Pepperdine University in 2016, 2017. We didn’t have this exact stat but we were tracking burnout. [And] pastors were feeling burnout and the risk factors involved,” said Jensen.

He explained that pastors generally shy away from counseling and mentoring, yet they must understand that it is OK to ask for help.

“Pastors traditionally don’t feel comfortable for some different reasons to seek out counseling or mentoring. You know it needs to be OK within a Church community and the Church culture for a pastor to say, ‘you know what? I need help.’ I need some counseling. I’m struggling emotionally,” he said.

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