Many American Protestant church leaders want out, a new survey released on Tuesday has found. Reasons for their desire to quit the job is burnout, isolation, and the global pandemic, all of which had placed extreme pressure on church leaders over the past 24 months.

According to the Washington Times, evangelical Christian research firm Barna Group just released a new survey that found about 38% of Protestant pastors admitted they were so stressed by their jobs that they were forced to "seriously consider" leaving full-time ministry. The 38% statistic is an uptick from January 2020's figure of 29% who said they were seriously considering leaving their pastoral jobs.

Meanwhile, pastors who contemplate leaving their jobs jumps to 51% in the Protestant mainline denominations. This includes the American Baptist Churches USA, the Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church, among other groups.

"The pandemic along with intense congregational divisions and financial strain has caused significant burnout on pastors, driving them to the point to seriously consider leaving ministry," Barna Group President David Kinnaman explained in a statement.

The Christian Century magazine editor Rev. Peter Marty remarked that the COVID pandemic made a challenging situation even more difficult and stressful for pastors in the last couple of years. Rev. Marty, who also serves as a senior pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, explained that even before the COVID pandemic, the church had already been going through some "remarkable" changes.

On top of that, the COVID pandemic "introduced a whole new ste of stresses," for a lot of clergy who "suddenly found themselves unavoidably becoming online content creators and video producers." These church leaders, who were used to in-person ministry, found it challenging to be isolated in their new role.

Meanwhile, Boston University's School of Theology associate dean of academic affairs and Church of Nazarene pastor Rev. Brian P. Stone cited a new "consumer" attitude among churchgoers that made it difficult for pastors to carry out their jobs. He remarked that churchgoers nowadays expect a "megachurch" type of experience in small town congregations with just some 50 or so people.

"The change that has been accelerating in the last 18 months has left a lot of pastors with their heads spinning and their hearts spinning as well," Barna Group vice president of church engagement Joe Jensen told Christianity Today.

"All the chaos, all the pressure, the magnifying glass of social media, the pandemic, the politics, the hyperdigital context, it makes sense that you have a lot of pastors saying, 'Is this really what I signed up for? Is this what I was called into?'"

The new Barna poll also founmd that mental health and wellness declined among pastors. In a 2016 survey, 85% of pastors said that their mental wellbeing was good or excellent, but in 2021, that number shot down to 60%. The survey also found that pastors who said they were seriously considering quitting were half as likely to say they were doing well relationally and a third as likely to say they were doing well emotionally.

So what advice does Barna Group have for pastors who are feeling hopeless at the moment? "Lean into the process," the group said, and look to biblical figures such as Moses and King David who both had doubts about their calling but eventually renewed their faith.