29 September, 2009

Pray for Your Pastors... They Need It!

I had one of those sleepless nights that I am notorious for; not because of an emergency or anything like that, I just couldn't sleep. Part of it was I had these "feeling" that something was wrong. I didn't know of anything specifically was wrong, but I began to intercede for people I know as I felt led to pray for them. I prayed for my city and for revival to sweep though our community. After praying, I was drawn back to an ongoing discussion that I have been having with a friend in the ministry. (I mentioned this is my last blog entry.) My friend has been battling loneliness, frustration, even depression. He was feeling like a failure because he felt like a minister ought not feel this way. I had to tell my friend that he is not alone, and that the fact is, the majority of us in the ministry feel lonely, isolated, inadequate and often like failures. Anyway, since I was up already and sleep was out of the question, I began to search the Internet for stats to back up what I told him. Some of these stats will be shared later in just a moment. But first, I want to encourage my readers to pray for your pastors. Trust me, we all need it.

Among the congregations which we pastor, people tend to fall into one of two groups, or somewhere inbetween. The first group tends to put pastors on a pedestal, thinking that they are invincable. Do that, and you will be sorely disappointed and disillusioned. We've got to come to understand that those in the ministry are just men and women... flesh and blood. Sin is an issue that we must contend with too. Compound this with the fact that we are frequently under attack, not just from Satan, but from the members whom we pastor, and it does take a toll on us.
The second group of people in the church tend to not ever think about the pastor, that is until they arrive at church. He (or she) is completely out of their realm of thought, until they either come to church or they or their family finds themselves in need. Then they expect the pastor to drop everything he is doing and be "Johnny on the spot." It does not matter what the pastor is doing or where he may be, he is expected to drop whatever he is doing and meet their need. In my time as pastor, I've been called home from vacation or family gatherings on several occasions. My son's 16 birthday was just ruined because of a situation in my church which the people demanded that I stay on the phone with them, literally for more than 8 hours, even though I was 22 hours away on a family vacation. Every time I would get off the phone, it would ring again, and again. I pleaded with them to allow me time with my son and to allow the church elders to help them. My pleas fell on deaf ears. Things like this happen to all of us on a regular basis. The perception is that it is our job to be everything from whipping boy to referee of their family fights. It's not uncommon for the phone to ring late at night after our kids are in bed with someone wanting us to come mediate a fight or just talk to someone who is lonely. The ironic thing is, no one considers how lonely our lives are. We seldom are invited to the parties and get togethers. I honestly think that people don't want the pastor there because his presence changes the dynamics of the room. Or maybe there are those who think we are just too busy. But the fact is, most pastors are completely shut out from these things and we are left on the outside. Yeah, pastors and their families are often the lonliest people in the church.

Now for those stats and figures that I came across last night, compiled by George Barna, Focus on the Family and a few other organizations:

* 80% of pastors 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.
* 90% of pastors feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the demands of ministry.
* 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
* Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
* The profession of Pastor is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions.
* Over 4,000 churches closed in America last year. That’s more than 10 every single day.
* Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.
* More than 50% of all pastors are so discouraged that they regularly consider leaving the ministry.
* 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
* 85% of pastors said their greatest struggle is dealing with problem people such as disgruntled members, elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.
* 90% said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be before they began.
* 80% of pastors’ wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
* 80% of pastors’ wives wish their spouse would choose another profession.
* 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
* 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
* More than 70% of pastors do not have a close friend with whom they can openly share their struggles.
* The dominant cause for pastors to leave the pastoral ministry is burnout. Number two is moral failure.
* At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit.
* More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month

From James Dobson’s newsletter:

"Our surveys indicated that 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses are discouraged or are dealing with depression."

Survey of Pastors (Fuller Institute of Church Growth)

* 90% work more than 46 hours a week
* 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
* 33% believed ministry was a hazard to their family
* 75% reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry
* 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
* 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
* 70% say they have a lower self esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
* 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
* 37% confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
* 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend

* One year the Southern Baptist paid out $64 million in stress related claims, second in dollar amounts only to maternity benefits

With these figures, who would want to Pastor a church?

Interestingly enough, one study reported the following:

* 3 out of 4 church members would give their pastors an “A” (44%) or a “B” (33%)
* Only 4% would give them a failing grade

This last information is leads me to think out loud, "How much of the problems and frustrations in the pastors lives would be allieviated if the 75%-96% would actually affirm the pastor more often, possibly taking the sting and focus off of the sharp criticism and outright attacks that we face regularly?
Just a thought.

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