There’s been a lot of talk about pastors in recent days. Blogs, posts, tweets and major media outlets have been abuzz about the challenges of the pastoral vocation. I lead in several spheres, but one of those has been pastor. For twelve years I have experienced the joy, heartbreak, victory and loss of walking with people through the dark caverns, open roads and flowery meadows of their lives.   

Pastoring. High highs, low lows. There are moments of deep fulfillment and ones that have squeezed the very marrow from my bones. Sometimes these bipolar moments collide in the course of a day, or an hour. This role is a deep privilege and a holy burden. It energizes me and drains me, pure caffeine and pure gut punch. 

One of my vocations is coach. I help humans navigate their leadership and personal growth journey through Stay Forth Designs. Many of these leaders are pastors. I have noticed trends arise from the coaching table to the fire pit. I talk with pastor friends about them, and I experience them myself. I know them as deep as I know my wife’s breathing rhythm in the middle of the night. But in 2017 Barna Research gave us a gift; the best qualitative research about pastors. 

It took me a few months to comb through “The State of Pastors”. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to research, but I panned the gravel for shiny gold nuggets. Every bullet point and graph is phenomenal research from over 14,000 lead pastors, but some sentences glimmered more than the rest. 

I believe this has massive implications for all of us. You know a pastor. You’re related to a pastor. You are a pastor. You work with pastors. You understand pastors steward a crucial role in our culture. You are curious about what pastors experience. You are burdened for pastors.  

More than 1/3 of pastors are at significant risk of burnout

Most pastors feel deep fulfillment about their work, but regularly battle emotional exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy

42% of pastors say they wish they had spent more time with their children

Only 1/3 of pastors are highly satisfied with their friendships

“Pastors report feeling lonely more often than most adults”

On the whole, the higher the friendship satisfaction for pastors the lower the burnout risk 

Pastors with a mentor or coach have a lower risk of burnout

One of the greatest burnout risks is having an unhealthy leadership or elder team

The most unfulfilled pastors live in a reactive posture, functioning as managers, counselors, referees and administrators while the most fulfilled pastors live in an active posture, functioning as entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors and leaders 

Pastors who are involved, known and respected in their communities are more satisfied 


Take a minute to respond before you move on…

Which statement burdens you the most? Why?  

What is one tangible way you can you serve a pastor you know?

What are the implications of these findings on the future of how we must lead in the Church?