A recent study states that few Presbyterian Church (USA) clergy take regular sabbaticals, with just one-fifth of those polled reporting that they do so.
On Monday, PC(USA) Research Services published a "Minister Wellbeing Report" that was produced from data collected from 4,495 PC(USA) ministers from September to November 2019. The Christian Post (CP) noted that the survey's participants accounted for 23% of the mainstream Protestant denomination's ordained clergy.
The report said that 49% of the ministers polled reported feeling tired on a daily basis. Ministers were also anxious about fatigue and loneliness, with 35% saying they were worried about it. Only 34% of ministers polled said they had taken a sabbatical.
The study's findings, however, revealed that despite worries about exhaustion and burnout, 90% of those surveyed were pleased about the work they were doing. In fact, 89% of those polled believe their missionary work gives their lives meaning and significance.
While most ministers take a day off every week to rest and recharge their energy, the study finds that almost a third have not taken the opportunity to do so for a long period of time.
"Fatigue is often associated with distancing oneself from constituents and family. If not attended, fatigue can lead to burnout," says the report.
PC(USA) Research Services stated that since the poll was done before the COVID-19 outbreak, the results would be different if it were completed during the pandemic.
"The challenges and stresses of the pandemic impacted all of life - ministers and ministries included - and may have resulted in different responses in some instances had the survey occurred during the pandemic," says the study's authors.
"The results, nonetheless, provide insights into the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of PC(USA) ministers," they added.
The study is said to be the fifth in an eight-part set of weekly PC (USA) updates on research into different areas of ministers' lives.
CP states that the PC (USA) survey confirms earlier findings that 50% of pastors felt unable to fulfill work expectations, 90% felt insufficiently educated to cope with ministry responsibilities, 45.5% suffered from depression or fatigue to the point of taking a sabbatical from ministry, and 70% had no close friend.
One example is senior pastor Scott Sauls at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, who openly admitted that pastors frequently feel alone in their localities. He said that the COVID outbreak has only served to aggravate the sense of isolation felt by many pastors.
He used the lockdowns in 2020 as an example.
"You've got this dynamic where reality is 70% of pastors right now around America are looking for another job," he said.
He explained that although many people see the church as a commodity, pastors view it as their family. Thus, during trying times, the feeling of loneliness and isolation gets exacerbated.
Sauls continued by stating that spiritual and psychological care givers like pastors and therapists are frequently "taken out" by the present "negativity of environment." He then exhorted pastors to combat loneliness by making personal connections and creating a sense of belonging.
"It really is the perfect emotional storm right now for pastors," he added. "Fighting against isolation is utterly essential."