Pastoral ministry brings emotional pressure, feelings of discouragement
by Don Morris, Mission USA director
The emotional health and well-being of our USMB pastors and their families is an important issue to address. I am convinced this is a problem about which few people in our churches are fully aware.
Simply put, we have several pastors, associate pastors and church planters experiencing mounting emotional pressure and feelings of discouragement. This is not a concern just in our churches but in churches all across America. According to statistics provided from studies of American pastors by Barna Research and The Fuller Institute:
- 80 percent of pastors surveyed believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
- 90 percent of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
- 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
- 50 percent feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
These are staggering statistics. And while there are certainly many, many pastors who are fulfilled in ministry and thoroughly enjoy what they are doing, sadly there are many who are simply struggling, often with no one knowing. What can we do about this?
I can tell you that on the national and district level we often pointedly ask our church planters questions such as: How are you doing—really? Are you and your wife doing well in your marriage, spending quality time as a family? Are you taking a day off, getting adequate rest?
If you are a leader in your church, ask your pastors the same questions. We’re also attempting to provide more tangible ministries for USMB pastors such as life-on-life coaching and connecting points with other pastors.
One of the reasons for pastoral burnout or emotional fatigue is that pastors are constantly giving of themselves. This can be extremely draining emotionally and physically over time. Pastors often do not have adequate means to refuel. So I encourage you to also make sure your pastor gets adequate time away—that your pastor is given some Sundays out of the pulpit to get extra mental and emotional rest.
And for sure, every seven years provide your pastor with an extended opportunity for a “sabbatical rest” of three months or more. Saying “Well, I don’t get a sabbatical!” does not understand the constant emotional and spiritual effort your pastor is providing for you and your church. Being a pastor, whether it’s as a lead or associate pastor or a church planter, is hard work. Let’s do all we can to take care of our spiritual shepherds. I firmly believe God will honor that!