Jan
20
2016

New Study Focuses on “Stuck Pastors”

What happens when pastors are burned out, but unsure about how to pay their bills? This week in Ministry Briefing, we share about a research project focusing on pastors who are “stuck”:

Sociologists Josh Packard and Todd Ferguson are conducting a survey of pastors which they are calling STUCK. It is aimed at understanding the reasons why some stay in the ministry even though they’d really rather walk away from organized religion. “I tried… I really wanted to get out of ministry because I felt like I was producing an artificial thing each week” said one pastor.

Source: Dechurched

Why does this matter for church leaders?

Few things have as much impact on the spiritual life of a church as the spiritual health and vibrancy of the church’s pastor. That is why it is heartbreaking to read quotes like these:

“I MEAN, I SPEND ALL WEEK FIGURING OUT HOW TO GET PEOPLE CLOSER TO GOD, BUT I SEE HOW THE SAUSAGE IS MADE, YOU KNOW.  SO WHEN I ACTUALLY HAVE THAT FEELING OF BEING CLOSE TO GOD MYSELF, I’M ALWAYS WONDERING IF IT’S REAL OR JUST THE CREATION OF THE PERSON WHO PUT THE EXPERIENCE TOGETHER.”  -SARAH, 56

“I TRIED, MAN, I TRIED.  I REALLY WANTED TO GET OUT OF MINISTRY, BECAUSE I JUST FELT LIKE I WAS PRODUCING AN ARTIFICIAL THING EACH WEEK.  I DON’T THINK IT HAS TO BE, BUT THAT’S WHAT IT FELT LIKE TO ME.  BUT I FOUND OUT REAL QUICKLY THAT I’M NOT REALLY AS GOOD AT ANYTHING ELSE AS I AM AT THIS, AND I CERTAINLY COULDN’T GET PAID AS WELL.  SO HERE I AM.” -ALAN, 43  

One of the most valuable things I was taught during my undergraduate days was the need for a backup plan. As a youth ministry major, our professors were very clear that church work is not the most stable of career paths, especially youth ministry. We were encouraged to develop skills that would help us in case we needed to step out of ministry for a season, lost our job suddenly, or realized that our calling lay elsewhere.

While we don’t enter into vocational ministry expecting to leave for a business career, having the ability to work elsewhere can be incredibly helpful for pastors, and their churches. Several years ago, after leaving a church, I spent a season selling cars while I prepared myself for my next ministry role. This season was incredibly helpful as it allowed me to heal, refresh, and prepare myself for the next season… in a way that would not have happened if I went straight back onto a church staff.

I am excited and nervous to see how this study turns out. Excited to see what is learned in order to work towards fixing the issue, nervous about how vast this problem is. I am grateful that Josh and Todd are diving into this.

Have YOU ever needed to step out of ministry for a season?

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About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.