Among the many reasons why pastors are leaving ministry are the most common: stress, loneliness, and politics, a new survey has found.
Barna Group has just released the results of a new survey that asked 510 Protestant senior pastors on their thoughts about their ministries. Among this group, up to 42% said they were "seriously considering" leaving full-time ministry. The most common reasons for pastors leaving the ministry are stress, loneliness, and politics, which contribute to pastor burnout.
According to Barna Group, the rate of pastors determined to leave full-time ministry has dramatically increased in the last year. New data has given insight on the reasons why 20% of pastors have given thought to leaving their ministries and why others have decided to stay.
Back in the Fall of 2021, Barna found that there was a sharp increase in pastoral burnout, which confirmed that there is a growing number of church leaders who are seriously considering resignation. In fact, as of March 2022, the figure is at 42%, a rise of 13 points from 29% in January 2021.
When asked why they have thought about leaving their ministries for good, pastors getting burned out cited that stress, loneliness, and politics or political division are the three most common factors, the Christian Headlines reported. Data showed that more than half of surveyed pastors or 56% said they considered leaving full-time ministry due to "the immense stress of the job." Meanwhile, about two in five pastors or 43% said they "feel lonely and isolated," while 38% said that "current political divisions" is the reason why they considered leaving the ministry.
Three more reasons cited by 29% of pastors for considering leaving their ministry are them being that they are "unhappy with the effect this role has had on [their] family," they are "not optimistic about the future of [their] church," and that their "vision for the church conflicts with the church's direction."
Meanwhile, pastors who do decide to stay with their ministry are still faced with several challenges. Notably, the challenges they face are the very ones that the pastors who wanted to quit cited as the reason for leaving the ministry. Among pastors who have not thought about leaving the ministry, 34% said "the immense stress of the job", while 32% said "current political divisions", adn 18% said feeling "lonely and isolated" were the factors that negatively impacted how they lead their congregations in the last year.
But the data gathered by Barna is not all bad news. In fact, it also showed that a majority of pastors or 83% of those who have not considered leaving their job said that they believe in the future of their ministry. Another majority or 75% said they feel that they have a duty to stay and fulfill their calling in the ministry, while 73% said they are satisfied with their job. More than half or 67% of pastors who did not consider quitting said that their family supports them well, while 59% said that their community supported them well, highlighting the importance of having a strong support community in a pastor's life.