Today’s guest post comes to us from Heidi Hall for Christianity Today about the daunting challenges faced by pastors.
Gordon Atkinson’s decision to leave the ministry didn’t come as an epiphany, nor was it a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly contentious church business meeting.
It began with a headache. A migraine. And then some anxiety, followed by its dark twin, depression. On Sunday mornings he started to feel that he’d rather do just about anything than preach another sermon. One day, after someone mentioned that a church doorknob was broken, Atkinson’s emotional response was disproportionate: overwhelming despair, as if someone told him the building had to be taken down brick by brick and reassembled across the street. But Atkinson didn’t know he’d be leaving until it popped out of his mouth one day in a conversation with a trusted staff member who was describing future plans for the church.
So Atkinson joined the ranks of former pastors.
You’ve likely read that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month, or that half of all pastors leave for a cause other than retirement. The most recent survey dealing with clergy attrition debunks those numbers, but that doesn’t mean being a pastor is easy.
Released in September 2015, the survey revealed the real-life challenges pastors face.
- 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
- 80 percent expect conflict in their church.
- 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
- 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
Pastors may face physical challenges as well. A much-publicized 2012 Duke University study of United Methodist pastors in North Carolina showed their obesity rate was 40 percent, compared to 29 percent of the general population. They also posted high rates of chronic diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension.
Ten percent said they suffered from depression—about double the national rate. At the same time, they were less likely than the general population to say their health issues affected their work. Researchers concluded that members of the clergy understand they should be taking care of themselves, but they simply won’t do it.
Statistics aside, there’s no avoiding the fact that pastoral work is unique and challenging, and pastors say there should be congregational and denominational attention to minimizing the pressures.
Click here to read the entire article.
Your partner in ministry,
P.S. – Does your health and wellness keep getting pushed further and further down the priority list? As men and women who have committed our lives to serving God, we seem to be neglecting our physical wellbeing at an astounding rate. Here’s some great news: your present doesn’t have to equal your future.
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