Shel Boese/ Shelby Boese – there are VERY few jobs that you experience this combination of stresses and he barely touches on the spiritual role that there is not a “place” for in our American society as much as in the past. Someone recently harassed me about taking a sabbatical for 5 weeks in 2009 after averaging 60-80 hour weeks from 2004-2008 starting a church and leading through a merger. I never saw an overtime check, it nearly destroyed me – yet the church is here and thriving because of this self-sacrifice. Some of course volunteered a lot of hours – but they still had jobs in our economy that would go on and still support them even if the church hadn’t made it, benefits and raises, a group of co-workers, etc. that were there regardless because they were united in the mission of making a living. Very easy to judge pastoral sabaticals when you are in a much more “secure” in this world’s way of functioning place and have a set of friends/co-workers that aren’t fickle based on a week or day’s work.
Here’s my response as to why pastors should have renewal (shorter) and/or study sabbaticals every 6-7 years. – does your livelihood involved this:
10 Real Reasons Pastors Quit Too Soon
Over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month. This staggering number includes some of the brightest, most inspiring pastors in the country. To prevent the continued flight of our pastors, we need to understand the cause of the problem. Though every situation is unique, the reasons pastors leave are often similar. Here are 10 common reasons pastors quit too soon.
50% of pastors report feeling so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could.Complaints speak louder than compliments. You can receive 15 compliments and one complaint, and the complaint will stick. When you hear criticism and look out to see empty pews, it can be difficult to recognize the positive impact you’re making. The key is to remember: no matter how much negative you hear, you’re always doing 10 times more good.
70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now than when they started. Many pastors have difficulty recognizing success. They compare themselves to other pastors and other ministries. Comparisons produce only two outcomes: (1) you think you’re better, which results in excessive pride; or (2) you feel like you don’t measure up, which creates a sense of failure. The key is not to compare, but to celebrate your successes.
70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend.With so many people looking to pastors for guidance, it can be difficult for pastors to let their guards down. They don’t want to come across as less than perfect. They feel they can’t be transparent and vulnerable. That creates a sense of isolation. It’s important for pastors to find people they can open up and share their struggles with, instead of absorbing and isolating.
(Shel – when going from a staff pastor to a lead pastor in my ministry this one really took me by surprise. It’s whole different ball of wax. Would be curious to hear from lead-pastor friends their thoughts on this. If you are your real (human like everyone else) self in process with close friends in the church it can be a real help to grow – OR it bites you in the… I’ve experienced both and still struggle with right boundaries here. Seriously how many OTHER jobs/calls/vocations does this become such a weird battle. Denial is usually the best option – pretending it’s not a problem…ugh).
4. Moral Failure
33% of pastors confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior.The moral failures of pastors are magnified more than the average person. The key to avoiding moral failures is creating a system of risk prevention. When you meet with someone of the opposite sex: let your spouse know, never meet behind closed doors, and do not discuss relationship issues. For pornography, software is available to monitor or block web activity.
(Shel – again – what other roles if you mess this up are you out of the field?)
5. Financial Pressure
70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.Most ministries are nonprofits, so pastors are not compensated well. When you can’t fully provide the life you want for your family, it makes it hard to continue. Then you look at friends not in the ministry with big houses and nice cars. Pastors can relieve the pressure with better financial planning. Try following the 8-10-10 rule – 10% to church, 10% to savings, and 80% to live off.
(yeah I think CEOs of non-church non-profits are a good comparison here – of course living by the rule of enough is good. But most compare pastors to Burger King Employees (who FYI usually have more generous benefits - or similar). But doesn’t require 7 years schooling and real people experience.)
4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close. When things aren’t going well, pastors become angry – with others, themselves, or God. Thoughts fall along these lines: “I did everything you told me. I went to seminary. I started a ministry. Why are you not doing what you said?” The worst thing about anger is it spreads like wild fire. The medicine for anger is forgiveness. We have to forgive so we can move forward.
90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.Pastors are put on a treadmill. They go from the ministry to a hospital visit to writing a sermon to meeting with congregation members. They just keep running until there’s no passion or energy left. They become exhausted and depleted. Vacations and sabbaticals can provide perspective. Another key is empowering other leaders so all the weight is not on the pastor’s shoulders.
8. Physical Health
75% of pastors report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.Many pastors overwork themselves and simply do not care for their bodies. When you’re busy, it’s easy to eat poorly. But eating the right foods is essential to physical health. It’s the difference between fueling the body and depleting the body. Pastors also don’t get enough rest or regular exercise. Exercise makes a huge difference in physical and mental health.
9. Marriage/Family Problems
80% of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Too often, a pastor’s spouse and children end up taking a backseat to the ministry. The key is balance. Marriage has to be a top priority. Your relationship with your spouse is the most important relationship you have on this earth. You have to nurture your family relationships – whether that means having family night or seeking counseling.
10. Too Busy/Driven
90% of pastors feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.A lot of pastors simply are not working efficiently. They are not protecting their calendars or giving themselves the space they need. They haven’t learned how to say “no”. Being busy is not always being productive. Pastors need to find ways to maximize the use of their time. You have to learn how to say “no” at the right times.
Take a look at these 10 points, then pray and ask God: What area do I really need to address? Where am I struggling?Once you identify the areas where you need to improve, take these three steps:
- Ask for help. If you’re struggling, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking someone for help.
- Institute accountability.Find a group or person to keep you accountable in the areas you think you are weak.
- Take ownership of your choices.More than anyone else, you control the path you walk.
Take actions and precautions to make sure you don’t let any of these 10 reasons separate you from your passion for the ministry and your calling.
*Statistics from Pastoral Care Inc.