Startling, depressing statistics on U.S. pastors

These statistics have been around for some time and the research was done in the 1990’s but they do strike a chord for us even today and in Singapore. The research was finished by the Schaeffer Institute, but quoted in Thabiti Anyabwile in a post titled, “Don’t Make Your Pastor A Statistic”. In the post he quoted the research of the former and I reproduce part of it  here:

But if I am to believe some of the survey statistics published on pastors and their view towards the ministry, the vast majority of my fellow pastors do not feel this way and are not receiving proper care from their people. Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:

Hours and Pay

90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.

50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Training and Preparedness

90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.

90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they

thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Health and Well-Being

70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if

they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Marriage and Family

80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.

80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Church Relationships

70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Longevity

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.

These statistics are startling and sad. Dr Richard J. Krejcir commented about this epidemic:

“After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found (this data is backed up by other studies) that pastors are in a dangerous occupation! We are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians or cat groomers (hey they have claws). We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry (I only feel that way on Mondays).”

However if you want to get further depressed, read the original article on why U.S. pastors leave their churches in Statistics on Pastors by Dr Richard J. Krejcir. Needless to say, we need to pray for all our pastors. And give them regular sabbaticals!

Depressed pastors: double stigmatization

depressed pastorsThere are actually Christians who believe pastors should never get depressed or burnout if they really know the Lord and have faith in Him. To them the two are contradictory. Why should that happen when the Lord is with them and they have the power of the Spirit, who by the way, brought the world into existence?  They forget Elijah, David, Jeremiah and Paul. They forget pastors have feet of clay too. They are made of flesh, blood and have hormones.They go through relational conflicts and experience loss too. They may work under as difficult work environments as executives, as this article USA Today showed……..

What kind of personal pain would cause a 42-year-old pastor to abandon his family, his calling and even life itself? Members of a Baptist church here are asking that question after their pastor committed suicide in his parked car in September. Those who counsel pastors say Christian culture, especially Southern evangelicalism, creates the perfect environment for depression. Pastors suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to seek help or even talk about it. Sometimes they leave the ministry. Occasionally the result is the unthinkable.

Experts say clergy suicide is a rare outcome to a common problem. But Baptists in the Carolinas are soul-searching after a spate of suicides and suicide attempts by pastors. In addition to the September suicide of David Treadway, two others in North Carolina attempted suicide, and three in South Carolina succeeded, all in the last four years.

Being a pastor—a high-profile, high-stress job with nearly impossible expectations for success—can send one down the road to depression, according to pastoral counselors. “We set the bar so high that most pastors can’t achieve that,” said H.B. London, vice president for pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. “And because most pastors are people-pleasers, they get frustrated and feel they can’t live up to that.” When pastors fail to live up to demands imposed by themselves or others they often “turn their frustration back on themselves,” leading to self-doubt and to feelings of failure and hopelessness, said Fred Smoot, executive director of Emory Clergy Care in Duluth, Georgia.

Most counselors and psychologists interviewed for this article agreed depression among clergy is at least as prevalent as in the general population. As many as 12% of men and 26% of women will experience major depression during their lifetime, according to the American Medical Association. “The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed,” said Matthew Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. But anxiety and depression in the pulpit are “markedly higher” in the last five years, said Smoot. “The current economic crisis has caused many of our pastors to go into depression.” Besides the recession’s strain on church budgets, depressed pastors increasingly report frustration over their congregations’ resistance to cultural change.

Nearly two out of three depressed people don’t seek treatment, according to studies by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Counselors say even fewer depressed ministers get treated because of career fears, social stigma and spiritual taboo. “Clergy do not talk about it because it violates their understanding of their faith,” said Scoggin. “They believe they are not supposed to have those kinds of thoughts.” Stanford, who studies how the Christian community deals with mental illness, said depression in Christian culture carries “a double stigmatization.” Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders—dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness. Polite Southern culture adds its own taboo against “talking about something as personal as your mental health,” noted Scoggin. The result is a culture of avoidance. “You can’t talk about it before it happens and you can’t talk about it after it happens,” said Monty Hale, director of pastoral ministries for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

For pastors, treatment can come at a high price. In some settings, however, it is becoming more acceptable for clergy to get treatment. “Depression is part of the human condition,” added Scoggin. “Some people simply find ways to gracefully live with it. Like other chronic illnesses, you may not get over it.”

Experts at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary suggest that pastors can help prevent depression by engaging in intentional replenishment weekly or monthly, confiding in their spouse and seeking spiritual direction with another pastor who ministers to them. They should also establish boundaries and set realistic expectations. “Jesus did not heal everyone, even though it was within His power to do so. No one is capable of successfully ministering to every person in need,” said Drs. Sidney Bradley and Kelly Boyce with GCTS. “Pastors can also normalize the problem of depression by teaching about it. This can help people understand it, and dispel the idea that Christians are immune from depression. Research has shown that when therapy is combined with medication, there is a 90 percent successful treatment rate. Depression is very, very treatable.” (USA Today 29/10/09)