An open letter to the good people in the pews
First, I want to thank you for your faithfulness as a regular attender of a local congregation. You serve, give, pray, volunteer, show up, teach children, invest in teenagers, care for the grieving, celebrate births, and open your family. I would not be who I am or love Jesus as I do if it weren’t for the laity who helped shape me as a person and a pastor.
Pastoring can be the most thrilling and amazing thing to give your life to. Maybe your pastor is in one of those wonderful seasons where everything is in sync. The right team is in place, people are unified, and God’s direction for your church is clear and being pursued. If that’s the case, stop right now and thank God.
But I need to tell you something that I was reminded of again this week…pastoring can be as painful as it is fulfilling.
In research that is distilled from Barna, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, and additional information from reviewing others’ research:
- Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches. (Some have numbers as high as 1700-2000 who leave each month)
- Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
Eighty percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
- Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
- Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
- Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
- Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
- Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
- Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career.
How is this possible?
It is possible because pastoring can be an incredibly lonely vocation. I hear it all the time from pastors in a variety of traditions. Many minister within systems that are plagued with competition and pecking orders. Many of their existing structures, while not originally put in place to foster inauthenticity, have evolved into environments where being vulnerable is nearly impossible. Many are measured on things they have no control over. Many feel like they have no one they can talk to. And on top of everything, we have an enemy knows how to isolate and attack.
Therefore, good people in the pew, give your pastor a break.
I look forward to unpacking this further.