Ministry: Hard Job, High Calling

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,


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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

Nelson SearcyHealth, Ministry