Half of You Ministers Will Leave...But You Don't Have to
Ministerial burnout is a problem. According to research done by the Fuller Institute and the Barna Research Group, it's an epidemic. Pete Wilson's resignation yesterday made headlines, but most cases don't. Pete happened to pastor a very large church in a very evangelical city. Most folks in ministry don't, and so their burnout won't cause much of a buzz.
I was speaking with a friend this afternoon who pastors a church he planted several years ago. He's been in ministry for decades. I actually texted him to say that I hoped his yesterday was a good day, to remind him that I was praying for him, for his wife, and for their church. I told him that I hoped they felt loved and appreciated yesterday.
He responded immediately that he was picking up his phone to text me the following message: "If God does not do something to get me out of here soon I'm going to scream!"
We talked for about 30 minutes about ministry, and we both agreed. Ministry is hard. Ministry may be harder now than it has been in a very long time -- and there are lots of reasons why that is. None of that matters right now. What matters right now is this: Ministry is hard, and if you're not serious about taking care of yourself, you won't last long. The data is alarming.
- 90% of pastors report working between 55-75 hours per week
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
- 80% feel unqualified and discouraged
- 90% say the ministry is completely different than they thought it would be before they entered the ministry
- 50% feel unable to meet the demands of their job
- 70% say they have a lower self-image than when they first started
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend
- 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
- 33% confess to having engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in their church
- 50% feel so discouraged they would leave ministry if they could, but they have no other way of making a living
- 70% feel grossly underpaid
- 50% of ministers starting out will not last 5 years
Look at that last stat again and let it sink in. Half of you ministers out there will leave ministry. Half.
Let's do some math for a minute. I have approximately 5,400 people who follow me on FB -- and another 3,700 on Twitter -- and another 900 on LinkedIn. There's surely a lot of overlap in that, but let's say 7,000 individuals see this post. My guess is a third of them are in ministry. That's 2,333. Now 80% of those folks are discouraged. That's 1,867 people. Half of those people will quit their ministries altogether. That's 1,167 people.
That's significant. That's a problem. That's reality.
It doesn't have to be that way. There is help available to you. I cannot stress this enough: Every person in ministry needs a coach, a mentor, a therapist, a guide -- someone from outside of your system who can see things you can't see -- someone who does not sign your paycheck -- someone you can be brutally honest with -- someone who will let you vent your unfiltered dialogue and tell you you're loved and remind you that you have options and power available to you.
Get that help. It's out there. And I don't care if it's not me. Find someone.
I recently had a conversation online with a group of folks who do ministry for a living. I asked them why they wouldn't reach out and get a coach. Many of them said they don't know why they would; they don't feel the need for one. They believe it's a sign of weakness. They believe they should be able to figure it out on their own. They don't believe anyone from outside could offer them any insights they can't discern themselves.
Some of them said they couldn't afford one, and their boards would never approve the expense.
Some of them admitted that they know they need one, but their pride keeps them from reaching out.
Pride. Money. Ignorance. These things cost us half of the people who begin ministry. These are the things that lead to burnout and turnover. Churches are left reeling, and it's easy for folks in ministry to blame the elders, or the deacons, or the lay people in the pews. They expect too much and offer too little in return. Blame the workload. Blame the politics. Blame everyone "out there" but know this:
You are being offered help right now. And if you refuse it, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Contact me today. Our first conversation is free. I won't charge you for it. I just want to help you stay in the game as long as you can. Half of you ministers will leave...but you don't have to.