A new Barna survey has revealed that within the last year, 42% of pastors have given serious consideration to quitting full-time ministry, up 13% percent from January 2021.
Among the reasons why pastors are contemplating leaving the pulpit, stress, loneliness and political division are listed as the top three.
Over half of pastors who have considered quitting full-time ministry (56%) say “the immense stress of the job” has factored into their thoughts on leaving; two in five pastors (43%) say they “feel lonely and isolated;” while 38% name “current political divisions” as a reason they’ve considered stepping away.
In an interview with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Church Health and Revitalization Strategist Terry Long said that pastors are experiencing “crisis fatigue” as a result of leading their congregations through more than two years of the COVID pandemic.
“Tate Cockrell (associate professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) says that in a ‘normal’ year for ministry, pastors have 5-10% of their congregation experiencing some form of crisis,” Long explained. “During COVID, that number became 100%. Everyone in a congregation went through the stress of this crisis together.
“This has caused discussion, dissension, fatigue and many other issues. Pastors have been running at this unique level of leadership for a couple of years. They need a time of rest and renewal in the Lord,” he added. “God, in fact, commands this, as we see in Mark 2:27-28. With these healthy rhythms, we can more clearly see a unique God-ordained ministry and mission.”
Joe Jensen, Barna’s vice president of church engagement, told The Christian Post in October that pastors’ tendency to shy away from counseling and mentorship is likely another contributing factor of pastoral burnout.
“Pastors traditionally don’t feel comfortable for a number of different reasons to seek out counseling, to seek out mentoring,” he said. “… It needs to be OK within a church community and the church culture for a pastor to say, ‘You know what? I need help. I need some counseling. I’m struggling emotionally.’
“But to be quite frank, for whatever reason, a lot of pastors don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable within a leadership context,” he added. “I really think that churches need to communicate and say, ‘Hey pastor, it’s OK not to be OK.'”