The Pastor Crisis

There is a pastor crisis in American churches. It seems that church-work is hazardous to your health. On one hand, you have pastors who tend to serve their churches as if their very lives depend on it. Neglecting their own needs they seem to sacrifice it all for the life of the church. In effect, the church becomes their life.

On the other hand you have churches that seem to take advantage of this fact. Churches tend to heap a huge amount of expectations on their pastors. This can be a volatile and dangerous combination.

A recent article I read had this to say about the office of the pastor:

The pastoral office has a way of chewing up all who come within its pale. Depression, burn-out, stress, and emotional breakdown are terribly high among Pastors.

Consider the following statistics that lay bare the lethal danger of the pastoral office:

* 94% feel pressured to have an ideal family.
* 90% work more than 46 hours a week.
* 81% say they have insufficient time with their spouses.
* 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.
* 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
* 70% have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
* 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
* 80% are discouraged or deal with depression.
* 40%+ report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations.
* 33% consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.
* 33% have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.
* 40% of pastoral resignations are due to burnout.
* Roughly 30% to 40% of religious leaders eventually drop out of the ministry and about 75% go through a period of stress so great that they seriously consider quitting.

Unfortunately, few Pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence. Simply put: Jesus Christ never intended any person to sport all the hats the Pastor is expected to wear! He never intended any man to bear such a load.

So here’s some questions. Do you think churches have too many expectations on the pastors that serve them? Do congregations or pastors bear the reponsibility for such dreadful statistics as the ones listed above? Do you agree with the writer that the office of the pastor is the cause for the underlying turbulence in their lives? What are some solutions you see that could remedy this crisis?

24 thoughts on “The Pastor Crisis”

  1. Dear Stupid Church People,Do you think you could maybe tell me your title for your next up coming blog before you post it? I mean “why not” I’m going to do the same one on my site anyway. Oh, wait maybe you could tell me your idea for your next podcast, because I saw you were doing one so I decided I had to also. Wait! Hold up! Maybe I should take your website and put “Not so” in front of it and claim it as original. Dang, I’m so original! Oh, no… I just thought of something. People might see my multiple bad ideas and find out what church I work at and it might make the church look like me.

  2. My, my…sounds a lot like little boys on the playground!! Once the stones are thrown, they cower and say “sorry” before the teacher comes around! Steve, thank you for your insight. Everything you have written here or said on your podcast has been referenced and thoughtful. You have NOT directed your thoughts at any individual and for that, I respect you. That shows maturity of character.Brandon, thank you for stating so eloquently what I was thinking as I read the terribly biting and vulgar attack on two guys that love the Lord and are bold enough to speak about the “stuff” that so many church-(and ex-)goers are thinking and feeling and experiencing.Scott, for someone I have no idea who you are, I would guess you have low self-esteem and have not lived much life. God’s discipline is STRONG…I speak from a long life and a healthy fear of a Creator who is still all-knowing of our actions and thoughts and motivations. Be cautious.Christian, your backstroke is professional. …Karen

  3. Zeke said:<>I wonder sometimes if the concept of a priesthood of believers is threatening to the traditional office of pastor.<>Of course it would threaten the position of a pastor but it would also threaten the congregation who hire him because then they would have to get off of their fat rumps and become responsible for their own spiritual well-being, which is the way it’s supposed to be.If we would truly embrace the biblical reality of the priesthood of all believers, then perhaps most would stop finding excuses for their apathy and stop hiding behind a position that is woefully lacking biblical support.It’s time to dismantle the spiritual welfare system in the Church…now.

  4. Karen said;“Scott, for someone I have no idea who you are, I would guess you have low self-esteem and have not lived much life. God’s discipline is STRONG…I speak from a long life and a healthy fear of a Creator who is still all-knowing of our actions and thoughts and motivations. Be cautious”Karen are you implying that scott should hide his true feelings or he might get into trouble?If God is all knowing and sees everything, to me that would be all the more reason for Scott to be a jerk, if he is a jerk in his heart. If we can’t hide from God, why should we hide anything? How did behavior become more important than honesty? Your statement is a strong reason why churches are so shallow and fakey. Why do we believe that God is secretly a mean person that we cannot trust? To me this is a far bigger problem than paid ministry, or how we meet. Christianity models the God it sees, and He is manipulative, insecure, domaneering, sexist, and very judgemental. So it follows that many church people have that same manner.To comment on my friend scott’s rhetoric. It would seem he is here to play hard ball. He is a hard person to argue with. He also likes to stir the pot. What you don’t know about Scott is that he is actually a woman!

  5. It again appears to me that there is quite an underlying resentment towards pastors coming from many who frequent (and host) this website. I am sorry that so many of you got the high hard one from a pastor somewhere in your past, but for God’s sake, or should i say for all people that are just trying to make it in the existing system of american christianity’s sake, figure it out… you dont belong in organized christian religion! God has rescued you from it’s deceptive, over promising, under delivering weak-ass performance based bullshit. Count your blessings and move on. Why spend so much time finding fault with a ship that is already sinking? As i mentioned in a previous posting, perhaps you should actually do something about it instead of hiding like a coward behind your keyboard and criticizing people that you dont even know? generalizing like you do proves that you are weak. if you had any balls you would name the bastards that wronged you and aim your rhetoric at them specifically. there are too many pastors that have given too much of their lives for the sake of the cause for you to be so brash as to accuse the lot of them of being in the wrong. Of course the system is flawed and of course pastors sometimes have issues, but come on, is shooting fish in a barrel the best you can do? it would also be nice for you to name your source for statistics that are as toxic as these that you are spreading as gospel truth.

  6. I think most pastors are highly self-important. To justify their importance, they put tremendous pressure on themselves to perform. They take themselves way too seriously, and allow the guilt of “not performing well enough” to push themselves far beyond a reasonable expectation.On the other hand, does the congregation push the pastor too hard? Certainly! The stockholder of any corporation wants top performance from their top executives. The perceived value of the work of the top executives sets the value for the organization overall. They want to see seats filled, and see things happening. That’s how they know their investment was worthwhile.

  7. I never said “let’s stop all the personal attacks.” But they’ve supplanted the discussion.I read your blog. Glad to see you’re turning over a new leaf.

  8. Scott,Last post from me on this topic.I’d be more than happy to hear some other perspectives on Steve’s opinions. As a matter of fact, let’s get down to business on that–I’m ready to start when everyone else is.What I’m not particularly fond of is having an argument based on other perspectives of ‘what somebody happens to think Steve’s opinions are.’Also, starting “dialogue” off with rhetoric like this:<>It again appears to me that there is quite an underlying resentment towards pastors coming from many who frequent (and host) this website. I am sorry that so many of you got the high hard one from a pastor somewhere in your past…<>Well, it’s not really the kind of opening that just begs for open honest discussion. For someone who claims to want REAL and AUTHENTIC dialogue, and who really cares about the ideas Steve brings forward, Scott’s got a funny way of showing it. Now, this may just be the way he is, but to then acuse me of not wanting to hear a dissenting voice–that’s just assinine.Scott also said this:<>What i didnt realize that in order for me to be at all controversial or otherwise provoking i would also have to listen to the petty bullshit pot shots of ne’er-do-wells.<>Good news, Scott. You don’t need to listen to that petty bullshit in order for you to be controversial or provoking. You can do that without being quite so abrasive, just be polite, if you really just want to challenge the status quo. You’ll get a lot farther that way–and you’ll not sound quite so shrill, nor will you find as much outright rejection.Frankly, I’m fine with taking your cutting remarks about me being completely without logic, that I’m stupid, or insecure, or what have you. But, I get the distinct sense that you’re much less comfortable with the critique you find in response to your firey tongue. Perhaps, I’m wrong. Maybe you like getting people ‘pissed off’, but that’s not what you said when you claimed to like Steve’s capacity to raise ideas that should be discussed, and then questioned the way we challenged you.But, if I’m right, and you don’t like to get ridden up a wall and back down again when you participate in the community here, perhaps a touch of care when crafting your comments is in order.

  9. Christian,Funnily enough, you’re sounding mighty righteous from that high horse of yours. I have no problem with disagreements on this site or on my own–actually, I relish them. Had Scott been disagreeing with something Steve had actually asserted, his comment wouldn’t have elicited any response from me. However, misrepresenting a position and then tearing down that position–that’s a red herring. It might work in politics, but not here.I’m not particularly sure how you, Christian, became an expert on what a Stupid Church Person was, but I also imagine that ‘Stupid Church Folk’ are stupid church folk because they don’t really care about pursuing the truth in an authentic dialogue–they care about being right.Now, I, like lots of (if not every other) human beings like to be right. ‘Tis human nature. However, I’m pretty sure that my desire to be right, or ‘win’ an argument is superceded by the desire to have REAL discussions with people. I don’t need to be 100 percent right 100 percent of the time, but I am pretty insistent that rhetoric be honest 100 percent of the time.I’m not perfect, and neither are you, but a comment like the one Scott made was ignorant at best, and at worst (and unfortunately this is what I suspect) sought to tear down REAL authentic discussion.So, Christian, if you really feel the need to defend that kind of behavior, I think our relatively short relationship has come to an unfortunate end.

  10. I think this begs the question, what are our expectations of pastors? Surely we need to discuss this as well. I come from a small church in NZ (about 80 people on a good day in the morning service) and my expectations are reasonable i think. We have a very loving pastor who is a good down to earth preacher and has good pastoral tendancies (likes to get out and see people). He leaves the running of the church, (maintaining buildings etc etc) to the elders and gets on with being with the people – who are really the church.My expectations of him are that he will try and live as a Godly man while leading a group of people towards seeking Jesus with all their hearts. How he does this is dependant on how God guides him. So it comes back to wanting to make sure that he has time to seek God, see his ways and lead our church with the help of elders in our church.Love to actually hear what other peoples expectations of their pastors are. Or what about small group leaders?

  11. I wonder sometimes if the concept of a priesthood of believers is threatening to the traditional office of pastor. Sure, we all complain about how too few step up to serve–but what if total investment in the priesthood of the believer meant an erosion of responsibility and authority for senior pastors? Maybe that’s too far out of *everyone’s* comfort zone.

  12. As I was sitting here thinking about how to respond to this, I got to thinking about why it is that I left my last church… In short, it was a matter of having two pastors in my church life at the time, and personality wise, I liked one a whole lot better than the other and when the one I liked better left to start his own church (no, it wasn’t a nasty split, this was a case of an intern pastor leaving) and since I felt like liking one person better than another was a trivial reason to switch churches, I was afraid to leave my current church and personality conflicts escalated with the pastor I didn’t like so well. So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, as I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that how I felt about these two pastors had a lot to do with why I’m not a big fan of top down ministry (aka pastor gets up in front of congregation every Sunday, does his thing, and congregants listen [or pretend to]). Church done in this fashion has always reminded me of a college lecture. In fact, I’ve often treated church AS it was just another college lecture… The problem with that is church is the class that will never end… but anyway… what bothers me about college lecture church is the fact that there’s a lot of emphasis on the pastor’s performance. We can probably all look back on our involvement with various churches and come up with a few names of people who were excellent speakers and did a great job holding our attention, and we also probably can come up with a few names of pastors that were not the most gifted in the public speaking department. There’s a lot of pressure on pastors to be perfect public speakers because in that whole sort of college lecture church style, the congregation is forced to rely on the pastor for information.

  13. Wow, Scott, those are some opinions you’ve got there.Though you are a troll, and as such probably we shouldn’t respond to your vitrolic rantings. Yet, they’re just stupid/easy enough to respond to that I think I will.1)”<>perhaps you should actually do something about it instead of hiding like a coward behind your keyboard and criticizing people that you dont even know?<>“Steve, the writer of this post, even shares his last name as well as photo. That’s hardly an effective ‘hiding’ tool. What would it help to name the people who’ve hurt him? That’d just proliferate the hate spewing.2)”<>generalizing like you do proves that you are weak. if you had any balls you would name the bastards that wronged you and aim your rhetoric at them specifically.<>“First of all, an asided, thanks for proving that you’re one sexist motherfucker. By infering that ‘balls’ are a source of strength you derogate women. You probably wouldn’t be able to grasp the concept here–with your limited mental capacity and all–so in short I would direct you to this entry to help you understand exactly what I’m talking about:http://badchristian.com/index.php/2005/05/09/on_balls_and_uterusesSecondly, you’ve somehow been successful at mentally convincing yourself that this entry is about what you think it’s about. You think it’s a slam on pastors of all sorts.3)”<>there are too many pastors that have given too much of their lives for the sake of the cause for you to be so brash as to accuse the lot of them of being in the wrong.<>“Had you read (or understood) what Steve wrote, you’d see that he is asking questions about the congregation as well as the pastor. Steve was as interested here with our responses as he was with his own thesis–that there’s an interdependent relationship between these sick pastors and their sick churches. Of course, you weren’t interested in what Steve wrote at all, you were stopping by just to stroke your ego and make yourself feel better about your opinions by reducing Steve’s ideas to the absurd. The problem is: you need to be able to understand those ideas to do participate in a reductio absurdum–if you don’t, you just come off looking more stupid than you did before you started.Do us all a big favor, Scott. If you can’t hold up your end of the conversation, perhaps it’s best if you don’t say anything at all.

  14. Why? Is it the pastors fault or the churches? Are you a pastor? How do you do ministry different?(I am just trying to get more than a one line comment)

  15. brandon-if it seems dark in here to you it is because you have your head in your ass. you obviously take yourself and your opinions way too seriously and probably are used to winning arguments by shear strength of will and not logic or common sense. i dont have the time or, quite frankly, the desire to carry on any kind of dialog with you. unfortunately, at this point, i cannot communicate with steve without it also being for public consumption. and having to put up with you being a minor nuisance is worth it for what i hope to be valuable and viable diolog with steve.

  16. <>Do you think churches have too many expectations on the pastors that serve them?<>Absolutely. I believe that churches and many parishoners put the onus of the entirity of their spiritual growth on their pastor. Often, even though they’re reticent to follow a pastor’s advice they’re more than happy to blame a pastor when they’re not happy with their own spiritual development–or, any other personal problem they may have. In short, a big part of the pastor problem is that people treat the church like a crutch. <>Do congregations or pastors bear the reponsibility for such dreadful statistics as the ones listed above?<>Both. Most things have dual faults, for example, it’s a pastor’s responsibility not to work a million hours a week, but it’s also a churches’ responsibility to make sure their pastor isn’t working too much as well. Frankly, I just don’t think you can boil the blame down to just one cause.<>Do you agree with the writer that the office of the pastor is the cause for the underlying turbulence in their lives?<> Yes and no. I think that the cause of much of the described underlying turbulence COULD be that they are pastors, but I think that the culprit could be what social scientists describe as an interaction effect. That is, this turbulence is probably found in some pastors–though probably not all. I would imagine that the second factor would likely come from having a healthy relationship with one’s church. I’d speculate that pastors with unhealthy attitudes toward their church family (e.g. pastors believing that they can solve all their parishoner’s problems, parishoners that have no concept of what a pastor should actually be doing, etc.). Of course, I suspect that the vast majority of pastors have an unhealthy relationship with their churches to one degree or another–thus the statistics.<>What are some solutions you see that could remedy this crisis?<>The death of the modern churches’ concept of what a pastor is, and the arising of a newly empowered group of pastors that understand the value of appropriate boundaries.

  17. Well, here we go again. Brandon and an Anonymous feel that it is there responsibility to straighten me out. I for that I am grateful. However, it saddens me that the two of you are so narrow minded as to think that there is only one perspective to be shared here. I was directed to this website by a friend that thought i would appreciate the “out of the box” dialog and insite postings of an articulate communicator. What i didnt realize that in order for me to be at all controversial or otherwise provoking i would also have to listen to the petty bullshit pot shots of ne’er-do-wells. Please do those of us that actually care about changing the system and not just criticizing the system a favor and keep to your own little “I’ll kiss your ass if you kiss mine” cliques. Stay away from the unchurched and the lost so as not to jade them with your preposterous reaction to the religious system that kicked your ass. I am sorry that that happened to you and sorrier still that you choose to bleed all over others.I appreciate the dialog that is provoked by steve many others and my impression is that he is not as insecure as some of the people that post here. In the world that i live in it is perfectly alright for there to be differences of opinion and humor is expected. i might suggest that some should take a step back and try to see these comments from a different perspective.And by the way… I have only been a woman for a couple of weeks now and maybe my hormones are all out of whack.

  18. Christian,I sincerely apologise for my comments, as well. I jumped to conclusions. I suppose that Steve, in much of what he says and writes, touches a happy nerve for me. As such, I take it personally when dialogue is thwarted by useless rhetoric. Thus, my forceful comments. I’m sorry we misunderstood eachother.Perhaps, over time and exposure I’ll begin to better understand the voice you write with here. As of yet, I’m still not sure what you meant by the post I was responding to, but I trust that in time I’ll come to understand your register.Nice to meet you.Scott,If you can’t in any way defend yourself against the charges I’ve levelled against you–i.e. you’re manufacturing an issue rather than responding to one Steve actually brought up–why respond?And I’m the one with my head up my ass thwarting the dialogue…riiiight.

  19. Y’know, the ideas that SCP brings to the table are worth discussing.But does anybody else notice how, when certain people join the discussion, we have a dialogue for about 2 or 3 posts, then it all turns into personal attacks? Instead of trying to discern each other’s motives, just discuss the issues. Let’s argue, for crying out loud.If you just want to have a pissing contest, take it over to Steffen’s “Not so Stupid…” site (BTW, how’s that workin’ out for ya?).Let us reason together.http://www.notmywill.blogspot.com

  20. Remember that song by Cheap Trick?:“I want you to want me,I need you to need me…”Could that be the state of mind that drives many of our pastors (and church leaders in general) to try to be all things to all people?

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