Are We Asking Pastors the Right Questions? No, We’re Not.

In their book, It Only Hurts on Monday, Drs. Gary McIntosh and Robert Edmondson explore nine key problems facing pastors today: Burnout, professional isolation, inadequate education, unrealistic expectations, resistance to change, poor pastoral accountability, tight finances, personal loneliness, and spiritual warfare.

Although the book was written almost 20 years ago, the struggles they outline still hold true today. I appreciate their ability to point out the problems while also providing ways in which we can change the statistics.

At the end of the book, McIntosh and Edmondson include a survey titled, “Contributing Causes of Pastoral Resignations.” The survey lists several contributing causes for resignations according to pastors and churches. For instance, 63% of pastors and 67% of churches say that resistance to pastoral leadership is one cause—actually the highest cause listed—that contributes to pastors throwing in the towel.

What I found most interesting, and equally most unfortunate, were the staggering differences between pastors and churches on these two topics: Salary issues and unwritten expectations of the pastoral family.

Thirty percent of pastors say that salary plays a significant role in pastoral resignations. Only 17% of churches say it matters. Ironically, as stated in a previous article, 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid. It could be me, but the math just doesn’t seem to add up.

According to churches, 27% of the reason why a pastor leaves is because of unwritten expectations of the pastor’s family. And this is where I find these statistics most distressing: Only 10% of pastors would agree.

I think I find this most unfortunate because, not only do the stats reveal much, I have talked to several pastors who have experienced firsthand the lack of support they feel they receive from the church body. Not only are they giving their lives to the ministry, they feel they are not getting anything in return.

Recently, a pastor sent me this message:

“I have just made it through my first five years as a pastor and know that being a full time minister is almost a bipolar endeavor, going from the highs to lows often within one day. I also know how stressful the ministry can be on a marriage. I have often heard that wives consider the church the mistress of their husband. We care so much for the people that God gave us to minister to, and we lose the time we need to seek God’s face. Our ministry becomes our lives instead of our lives becoming our ministry.”

POSTED ON April 8, 2014

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Bo Lane is the founder of ExPastors, a community that strives to offer help, healing, and hope for expastors, pastors, and church leaders, and author of Why Pastors Quit. As a media professional with more than 15 years of experience, he has developed marketing and brand strategies that have revolutionized churches and businesses, both large and small. Bo left full-time ministry after serving more than a decade in churches in Oregon, California, and Iowa. He is also a writer, filmmaker, woodworker, husband and father.