An online survey conducted among pastors and former pastors revealed that many of them are working more hours than they should and that, at times, they feel unable to meet what their role demands.
The survey was conducted online from September 2016 to March 2017 by ExPastors, an online ministry that caters to ex-pastors, pastors and other church leaders as a "place of help, healing and hope" and also as a resource for articles on pastor health and leadership.
ExPastors said the objective of the survey is to gather accurate information on the challenges pastors face, such as finances, family and burnout. To ensure the accuracy of the data, they decided not to ask the respondents' gender and age, and whether the pastor served as a volunteer or as paid staff.
The only information they required about their respondents was where they fit in four categories: currently serving as pastor; used to be a pastor; in transition but still desiring to serve as church staff; and was an ex-pastor but has served as pastor again.
The survey revealed that out of 577 unique respondents, 485 (86 percent) felt they were not able to fulfill what the job requires. Respondents (435 or 77 percent) also felt that "unrealistic demands" were expected of them and their families.
When asked if they have ever considered quitting the ministry, 475 (85 percent) respondents said they did. Some of the respondents (359 or 64 percent) have doubted their call to ministry.
Pastor burnout was identified as one of the respondents' struggles, with 398 (71 percent) of them admitting they have gone through it. More than half of the respondents (323 or 58 percent) said they experienced being "hurt or burnt by a church" that either they were asked to leave or they decided to leave.
More than half (62 percent) of the respondents struggled with loneliness. Other issues that the respondents faced were anxiety (65 percent), depression (39 percent) and suicidal thoughts (29 percent).
Forty-four (44) percent of the respondents said they went about the role of pastor without a mentor.
ExPastors explained the survey was not a "true scientific research-based study" but simply a survey conducted online. Their results are somehow similar with the 2016 Pastor Statistics from the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, a "Christian Think Tank" that does research on church trends and biblical precepts.
The 2016 Pastor Statistics revealed that more than 50 percent of pastors are overworked, overstressed, cannot afford to pay their bills and working more than 55 hours a week. The data also showed that pastors battled depression (35 percent), fatigue (26 percent) and burnout (9 percent).
Interestingly, 53 percent of them said studying at a seminary was not enough to prepare them for pastoral work. Despite all these, a whopping 90 percent said they "feel honored to be a pastor."
One way to combat pastor burnout is to equip the saints, according to Karl Vaters, pastor at California-based Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.
Writing for Christianity Today, he said one of the reasons pastors get burned out is they fail in "equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," as Ephesias 4 says.
He reminds pastors to "preach to equip, not just to inform or inspire;" to go about ministry tasks with people and not just for people; to equip teams instead of appointing committees; and to "involve the team in the decision-making process."
"Equipping pastors work alongside the congregation as we do the work of ministry together," Vaters wrote. "It's our calling. It's our mandate. And, when we see it working in the lives of the congregation we serve, it's our joy."
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, recommends that pastors spend more time in prayer and in the Word. Likewise, he advised praying for the community, which would help pastors to stop looking inward too much.
He also said it would help to "dream again."
"When I first arrived at this church, I had great visions and excitement. But I got caught up in negativity and trivial things, and I lost my vision," he wrote in a blog. "But recently I asked God to restore my dream and vision for my church, and He's already answering that prayer."