How are Christian ministry leaders doing these days?
Two days ago I got to be part of a rich discussion on the state of our faith leaders, particularly those served by the ReNew team which I am a staff member of. It was noted with a wry chuckle that, alas, you can find a report via Google that supports your opinion on pretty much any topic. So we take statistics with a grain of salt, and look to specialists like Barna Group for solid research on the state of pastors. Most of our conversation was what we’re seeing directly. With team member locations that include Washington DC, Nashville, and the west coast, and some with roles as part-time church pastors, we hope that we are observing a wide-ish swath if anecdotally. Plus, our clients come from various denominations, locations, age groups, ministry settings, and roles –e.g., I’m currently walking with a missionary couple in Costa Rica; teammate Tiffany is hosting day retreats for female pastors; Shaun & Maria minister among churches in Tijuana. So what are we seeing? Here are a few answers to the questions “How are our ministry leaders doing? What is their emotional and spiritual temperature?”
- Subtle confusion: they literally have the best news ever, but fewer seem to want it. Attendance is overall dropping.
- Don’t know what else to do outside the institutional church method, but that may be the cause of decreasing attendance; is “church” increasingly out of step with our culture?
- Pressure to stay busy; pressure to try to keep up with the times and the culture, yet others want some tradition so they’re in a no-win: “Be creative/innovate– oh but don’t change what I like!”
- Many are weary and stressed.
- Divisive political climate and tensions within the church are at an all-time high. People who are attracted to this work might be predisposed to poor conflict resolution skills…Natural “peace-keepers”.
- It’s hard to admit what they don’t know or what they need when they are expected to wear so many hats and do them all well. To expose vulnerabilities might put their job or respect at risk. (One anecdote was preferring to check in with pastors’ spouses to get the real scoop on health and stress levels!)
- Need for confidential community to process stress and difficult situations faced in ministry and society. Isolation is an occupational hazard of ministry leadership.
Granted, we (ReNew staff) do realize that our clientele might skew our perspective to the disheartening side. We provide emotional and spiritual care to ministry leaders, so those we walk with are the ones who need it– often limping or on crutches healing from an injury so to speak. Thriving pastors are not usually the ones who seek us out. So none of these observations were especially new to anyone; the conversation did underscore the need for what we offer, and to amp up ways for faith leaders to connect with peers in safe settings. We are already cooking up ideas for more cohorts and peer groups, both in cyberspace and local settings. Chewing through what we can sustainably offer well is crucial for us– otherwise we fall victim to the very thing we work to prevent! We realize the need for a good referral network for what we decide we shouldn’t do.
So now I’m curious: what are YOU noticing? How are the ministry leaders in your neck of the woods– what do you observe? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section. Would you be willing to ask the faith leaders you know?– you can even use the excuse that you know someone who works in the field of ministry leader soul care, and you’re asking on their behalf. You know, “for a friend.” LOL
I also ask you to show some love to the spiritual leaders in your part of the playground: a thank you, a hug, a gift card for coffee out, babysit their kids so they can hang out with their spouse. It’s hard for them to ask for it, but oh so appreciated!!