“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good”
2 Thessalonians 3:13
I am doing something beginning this coming Monday morning that will most likely go unnoticed by most of the people in my sphere of influence. Most people will not notice that I will be taking a complete break from ministry for two straight weeks. I mean, it is only two weeks. For 99.99% of our church, this will not be a big deal. However, since I have not done anything like this before, there will always be those who think something is wrong. Why else would a pastor take time off, right? The only time you ever seem to hear about pastors is when something is going wrong in their lives. Well, not this time. It is actually because things are going so well that I am going to begin adding scheduled times away from ministry. These two weeks are the beginning of something I am going to do every Summer and throughout the year as a way to rest, get refreshed, plan for the future, and celebrate the journey.
The statistics of ministry are staggering and heart breaking. There are too many ministers who are quitting and forgetting why they started in ministry to begin with. The reason for this, in my opinion, is because they became so tired that they simply quit rather than resting and recovering. This will not be me. My goal is to finish strong and that means rest must happen. Here are some ministry statistics.
*53 % are often concerned about their family’s financial security
48 % often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle
21 % say their church has unrealistic expectations of them
77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage.
75% of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons.
38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors.
90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different from what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
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.
94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
80% spouses feel left out and under appreciated by church members.
80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.
4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
*Disclaimer– The purpose behind giving you these is just to say that the office of a pastor is not an easy lifestyle. I am NOT saying that many or even most of these apply to me directly. However, I will say that some are pretty close to home.
WHY TIME OFF IS GOOD
- A pastor has emotional highs and lows unlike most other vocations. In the course of a day, a pastor can deal with death, deep spiritual issues, great encouragement, petty criticisms, tragedies, illnesses, and celebrations of birth. The emotional roller coaster is draining. Your pastor needs a break—many times a break with no distractions.
- A pastor is on 24-hour call. Most pastors don’t have an “off” switch. They go to sleep with the knowledge they could be awakened by a phone call at anytime of the day. Vacations are rarely uninterrupted. It can be an exhausting vocation, and a sabbatical can be a welcome time to slow down.
- Pastors need time of uninterrupted study. It doesn’t usually happen in the study at church or home. There is always the crisis or need of the moment. Church members expect sermons that reflect much prayer and study. The pastor’s schedule often works against that ideal. The sabbatical can offer much needed, and uninterrupted, study time.
- Pastors who have time off have longer tenure at churches. Though my information is anecdotal, I do see the trend. And while I cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship, I feel confident that pastors who have sabbaticals are much more likely to stay at a church because they are less likely to experience burnout.
- Pastors who have time off view the time off as an affirmation from their churches. I have heard from many pastors who share with me a sentence similar to this one: “I know my church loves me because they give me time off.” Pastors need affirmation. Time off can accomplish that goal.
So, it’s because I love what I do and the people I serve that periods of time away from the weekly grind and the weekend responsibilities will be happening more and more. My goal will be to take time off during the year and to have one time of at least two to three weeks off during the summer so I can be one of the blessed few who finish well. There are still so many more years to come. I plan to get there with my health, family, and church still tact.