Troubling Stats On Pastors

Chuck Bomar —  November 1, 2013 — 7 Comments

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 9.18.20 AMA friend of mine tweeted out an article that was showing statistics on pastors that, well, shocked me a bit.  You can check out the article yourself if you’d like, but here are a few things that stood out to me:

(1) 57% (over half!) of pastors said they would leave the ministry if they had a better place to go – ministry or not.

Okay, before I go any further with listing out some other stats, this troubles me a bit. I get that we can get tired, burned out or even burned in relationships, but

  • What does this say to us?
  • What might this say about these pastors, on a personal level?
  • What might this say about their calling to ministry?

I’m not pretending like there are actual answers to those questions – answers would certainly be dependent on the individual person and specific circumstances. However, I do think some of these questions can be wrestled with a bit from afar.

Anyway, here are some other stats that stuck out to me:

(2) 81% of pastors said they have no plan or program in place for discipleship.  Um, this is a major – very serious – problem.  But, maybe the next statistic shows a bit why this is the case:

(3) 75% of pastors felt unqualified to be in position.  I think this is much more than people being humble.  There are other issues contributing to this.

(4) 71% said they are burned out and struggle with depression.

(5) 77% said they do not have a good marriage.

(6) 30% said they have been in an ongoing affair or have had a one-time sexual encounter…with a parishioner. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m troubled by these things. Maybe these would be pretty average for any position in any industry…but I’m not sure that matters.




Picture courtesy of

I have a love/hate relationship with summer.  On the one hand it’s an awesome time of relationship building with students. While, on the other hand it is one of the busiest seasons in our ministry. I can handle the craziness because I know it’s just a “season.” However, it is easy in ministry to turn this short stint into a lifestyle.  It begins with allowing phone calls and emails to creep into my day off.

I understand that just saying, “I’m off now,” doesn’t allow our brains to disconnect. Perhaps we take a vacation while sacrificing 1, then 2, then 5 days off.  Obviously, it begins with allowing ourselves both VACATIONS and DAYS OFF.   Beyond just taking the time, how can we make these days restful?


  • Talk Ministry But Don’t Talk Details

I love to talk ministry, but logistics, details and daily frustrations are on “moratorium” in conversations on these days.   Take the time to get back to the heart of your calling and take an eagle’s eye view.  Dream.  If you could do anything in ministry and nothing held you back what would it be?

  • Enjoy Something

Has it been forever since you called an old friend, visited a favorite ice cream shop or built a sand castle? When is the last time you took time for family and just say back and liked being with them? Take a moment to allow yourself the freedom to remember what you like to do and who you like spending time with that isn’t in your job description.

  • Shut Off Technology

Yes, I know everyone says this. Still, I genuinely used to believe the world would stop spinning if a text, email or Facebook query were put on hold.  The voicemail of a couple of good friends of mine actually say,  “If you are leaving a message on X day, that is my day off and I will not be getting back to you until the following day.”   Me?  I know myself, if I have my smart phone all of this is too easily accessible.   So on my days away, my husband holds my phone.  Turn it all off intentionally.

  • Avoid the urge to use this as “make up” time.

Sometimes this is inevitable.  The grocery shopping or spring-cleaning might need to happen.   However,  as a rule do not allow off times to be the time you “get caught up” on reading or chores that have been falling to the wayside.  If you genuinely LOVE leadership books and they bring you energy then great.  If not they should not make your beach reading.

On vacations and days off most importantly remember the three “R’s:”  Refresh, Reflect, Relax.  Jesus took time to steal away and be with His father, just for the purpose of talking to Him.  It was something He loved to do,  that filled him up for what was ahead.   If we learn to rest in the arms of Christ,  we can begin to work towards a burn out relapse.   The last week will not give you ALL the answers,  but they should get you started.

What helps you unwind on vacations and days off?







Here are some warning signs about your heart, your ministry, your life – when you start to think this, you are in trouble:

  • My church is lucky to have me
  • I’m going to leave this church as soon as I can
  • My senior pastor is an idiot
  • No one will care about this receipt
  • If I was in charge I would never do it that way
  • This little sin isn’t a big deal
  • I wish I had what that megachurch down the road has
  • I don’t need to be in a small group myself
  • I wonder if they need help … oh well, they’ll figure it out
  • That church must be shallow since they are growing
  • Hmmm … red flag with that volunteer, but I’m not going to say anything
  • This is just a tough week, or a tough season, or a rough quarter
  • I just don’t have time for my own personal spiritual growth
  • Volunteers aren’t worth the trouble
  • I’ll just copy what every other church is doing
  • Sermon prep counts as a walk with Jesus, right?
  • Camp will just have to count as a vacation this year
  • I kinda like this little silo I’m in
  • Our church website makes it look SO much better than it actually is
  • I have to sacrifice my marriage for the kingdom
  • I might as just well do it, I will in the end anyhow
  • This kind of seems like a legitimate expense
  • No wonder the last youth pastor left in less than a year
  • If I only made 10K more
  • I don’t need relationships with the rest of the staff
  • 65 hours is a good typical week
  • I think I can justify this to the finance committee
  • Our church values the youth ministry right above the cleaning crew



How many of these statements describe you?
• You pride yourself on working 50+ hours a week at the church.
• You frequently miss personal and family events and cancel plans with friends.
• You say, “Let me just finish this one thing” all the time.
• You check email after midnight and/or the second you wake up.
• Your kids have to holler at you—several times—to get you to look up from your laptop.

Believe me, this is a test you don’t want to ace. You need a break. You need to “go dark” once in a while. It’s not good to be “on” all the time. Two reasons we resist this are:

1. Unhealthy expectations. Often we don’t turn it off because our senior pastor or supervisor doesn’t let us—or at least that’s what we think. We assume overworking is a sign of good job performance, when it really drives us to a dangerous place and perpetuates unreasonable expectations. If you manage others, set an example by going home on time. If you’re job-hunting, inquire about typical work habits. And if you’re in a bad situation, get out or nudge the culture toward health.

2. Brokenness. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-importance, even outright arrogance. Will the world really fall apart if you miss youth group one week? It feels nice to be noticed when you’re gone, but we take it too far. Pray that God will help you fight against personal insecurities and mold your heart into healthy balance.

There’s hope, but it starts with some tough changes. See below for a few tips for fighting back against unhealthy expectations and brokenness.

Go + Stop + Go = Health!
• First, pray for your heart and health.
• Start every day in time with God.
• Track your hours and see where you can gain back some time.
• Take a day off every week.
• Turn off email alerts on your day off.
• Don’t bring your laptop home.
• Limit the number of nights you’re away from home each week.
• Find a hobby that fills you up.
• Have a frank conversation with your boss about hours and expectations.
• Practice saying no.
• Schedule vacation time right now for the next two years.
• Invite accountability in this area.

Originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!