I am convinced that most pastors have no idea how hard it is to be faithful and effective for another year, much less for an entire lifetime.  I am further convinced that virtually no one outside the pastoral ministry understands what is happening to good pastors in our own time. A recent survey by Dr. Richard A. Blackman, in a dissertation written for Fuller Theological Seminary, underscores my point very well.

1. 75% of pastors surveyed reported having at least one significant crisis due to stress.
2. 80% believed that ministry is affecting their families negatively.
3. 90% felt inadequately trained to meet the demands of their job.
4. 50% felt unable to do their jobs.
5. 37% of pastors had experienced inappropriate sexual contact outside of their marriage.
6. 40% of pastors experience a "serious relational conflict at least once a month."

[My view: This is mostly with staff and/or church boards or councils.]7. 50% of all pastors felt unable to meet the demands of their jobs.

Read those results one more time and you will likely get something of a clue about the real difficulty that a modern pastor faces in our culture in being spiritually, emotionally and sexually healthy. If this data is remotely accurate, and I have every reason to believe that it is, we are in real trouble and few are talking about it seriously. Almost all of the ministers that I know personally, and I would suppose I know several hundred as my friends, would agree with one or more of the above statements about themselves yet they would also have to add, "My congregation has little or no understanding of my difficulties and I dare not let anyone of them know."

Face it, the church is not a safe place to be a minister these days. It will not tolerate ministers who fail, generally speaking, and this is why so many pastors need real friends, people who care and friends that can really be trusted.

Someone asked me, a few years after I left pastoring a local church in 1992,  "Do you miss ministering to people one-to-one?" I answered, "I am doing more pastoral ministry than I have ever done before but these days I am doing it with pastors, some of the most broken and needy people I know." Bishops and denominational leaders once did this ministry but few really do it now in modern America.

I think I minister to a lot of pastors because I like them, understand them, and I am no threat to them or their job. I have no vested interest in their coming or going just interest in them as my friends. Sometimes I wish I had 36 hours in a day just to love more pastors.

And while you are thinking about it, if you are not a pastor, do your pastor a real favor and refuse to become his/her critic. Your pastor has plenty of those. Be a friend and seek to gain some insight into the pressures the pastor faces that you very likely do not understand. "[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:7).

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  1. Nathan Petty August 15, 2007 at 10:08 am

    “My congregation has little or no understanding of my difficulties and I dare not let anyone of them know.”
    This is, indeed, tragic.
    Do you have any insight as to why pastors believe (rightly or wrongly) that the congregation lacks understanding, and why the pastors dare not be honest?
    In my experience the congregation often sets the pastor on an unbiblical pedestal of expectations that are impossible to meet. And just as often the pastor accepts (or seeks) that position and its inevitable frustration and failure.
    I, too, am a friend to many pastors, and I see the same problems you mention. It seems to me that the cure for this has to begin with prayer, charity and honesty. If the pastor never shares his pain, he may never know that there were members waiting to respond in love.

  2. Orlando August 16, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I am seeking God’s will as far as my calling for ordained ministry, but quite frankly, when I see these type of statistics, it’s scares me away from ministry. I know I need to be sure about my calling, but is my confidence in my calling going to make to my job in ministry any easier? I’m afraid that in today’s church environment it’s not. What words of wisdom can you offer a prospective minister in light of these statistics?

  3. Steve Scott August 17, 2007 at 2:53 am

    Ditto to what Nathan said. As to Nathan’s “unbiblical pedestal of expectations,” I believe every pastor needs a Jethro to say “what you are doing is not good.”

  4. Bill Cobb August 17, 2007 at 10:52 am

    I think your blog article calls attention to a very serious problem that we lay people seldom seem to acknowledge. Instead we seem to place these men on a pedestal, and think of them as Supermen and pile on unrealistic expectations. We seldom come alongside them to relieve them of some of their tedious tasks, as in Acts 6.
    Do our seminaries take a responsible role to prepare men to lead and manage, to delegate ministry? It doesn’t look like it.

  5. Bill April 19, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    This is exactly the reason the Roman Catholic Church has a celibate priesthood. A Catholic Priest can dedicate his life entirely to the work of God. A married man cannot, it is impossible. A husband is obligated to honor and love his wife as he loves the Church; thus, he is at odds with satisfying the demands of his family (wife and children) and properly tending to all the needs of his congregation. Remember that Paul said it was okay to be married but it is better if you were not. I personally know of 2 ministers (one Non-Denominational and one Assemblies of God) whose marriages have suffered due to their chosen occupation. The Non-Denominational Pastor had to take a temporary leave of absence to mend his relationship with his wife and children. While I respect the efforts of my Protestant Christian brothers, I write to simply point out the logic/practice (cause and effect) and Biblical evidence of the RCC reasoning for unmarried celibate Priests as this has recently come under much scrutiny. For those who wish to address the pedophilia problem within the RCC, I quote the following: … research by Richard Blackman at Fuller Theological Seminary shows that 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact. In a 1990 study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8% of clergywomen reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague; 17% of
    lay women said that their own pastors had sexually harassed them. Phillip Jenkins concludes in his book “Pedophiles and Priests” that while 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia, 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia. Comtemptus Mundi.

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