Skip to content

The State of Pastors

David Kinnaman (a Pastor’s Kid himself), President of the Barna Group states : “I came away from my childhood with a pretty accurate slogan for church ministry: Where you control nothing and are responsible for everything.” p. 7

  • Interviews with > 14,000 pastors
  • Approx. 320,000 church leaders

“It is my belief, further confirmed by this project, that the Christian community in North America does not need stronger leaders; we need more resilient leaders.” p. 9

This graph shows changes between 1992 and 2017. Two items I find significant:

  • Median age of pastors over the past 25 years has increased from 44 to 54.
  • Pastors are staying longer in their congregation than they did 25 years ago.

Regarding clergy “at risk,” the Barna group categorizes three areas:

  1. Burnout Risk
  2. Relationship Risk
  3. Spiritual Risk
  • More than one-third of pastors are at high (11%) or medium (26%) risk of burnout.
  • Two in five tally high (27%) or medium (16%) on the risk metric for relational problems.
  • And while only one in 20 is at high risk of spiritual difficulties (5%) – giving the impression that this is a non-issue for most pastors – an unexpected six in 10 fall into the medium-risk category (61%), suggesting there are currents worthy of notice just below the placid spiritual surface. [p.20]

As might be predictable, Pastors with growing congregations have a significantly LOWER burnout risk than Pastors with a congregation in decline. The same is true of their level of “satisfaction;” Pastors of growing congregations are (predictably) much more satisfied than those in declining congregations. [No news here!]

What I find particularly interesting is this graph:

MOST of the list are SKILLS that can be improved. This is where a good Coach comes in (ahem!). What is Coaching? Coaching is a specialized relationship designed to help you find clarity and skills needed in making positive changes in your life and in the systems with which you are connected. 

We get a similar picture from Barna’s next slide, “The Most Challenging Aspects of Being a Pastor Today.”

Again, SKILLS Development is central to almost everything listed in this graph.

For Intentional Interim Pastors and Pastoral Supervisors, this graph focuses in on one of the major correlations with Pastoral burnout, “Negative Pastor-Elders Dynamic.” Intentional Interim Pastors have a great opportunity to help ensure the success of PastorNext by helping create healthy ministry dynamics (see the materials on the Five Dysfunctions; and not to promote myself too much, I would be happy to help create a tool you can use with your ministry team(s) on creating more functional and spiritually healthy teams).

And the last slide for this issue:

This slide tell me: The more a Pastor can “lead” rather than “manage” the greater the satisfaction. Those who tend to “dictate” or try to (merely) control others are not very happy. (And, I suspect their people are not happy either.) It would be interesting to find out how many IIMs are called in because the former Pastor tried to highly control others rather than lead in a more healthy manner.

In future newsletters I will provide additional information on Leadership and some practical tools that have helped me and that you might find interesting and useful. If you have suggestions, comments, or additional helpful insights/tools, I would love to hear from you.

Blessings in Christ,