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A Baseline of Post-Covid Pastoral Reality

This is the first of 4 weeks on “how we’re doing as pastors” and “how the church is doing at taking care of the mission entrusted to it by Jesus and the pastors they’ve asked to lead it.”

I will be citing some research data each week. So, when you disagree with me, you’ll be a bit hard pressed to say “that’s just Jock’s opinion!”

It’s no secret here that I’m a big fan of pastors! And their spouses if they’re married. I’ve got a front row seat in the cheering section. And, it’s also no secret that I’m known for saying that along the way the church in the U.S. has forgotten about the mission of God entrusted to it by Jesus himself.

It’s a simple equation for me…and for PLI!

When pastors (and their spouses if they’re married) become better leaders…

The people IN the congregation benefit…

And the mission to the people OUTSIDE the congregation benefits, too.

So, here’s where I want to go these next 4 weeks!

Today – A Baseline of Post-Covid Pastoral Reality

August 3 – The Impact on the Mission of God

August 10 – The Sense of Support for Pastors

August 17 – Pastors Taking Charge 

Almost all of us are “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to pastoral wellness, the shortage of pastors, and the effectiveness of congregations. In the language of PLI’s Senior Leader (which is targeted for leaders of larger, more complex ministries), we continue to apply “technical changes” to an “adaptive challenge.” 

Rather than saying that we have a problem and we need to adapt to a new reality, we do business as usual. Let’s “tinker” a bit with what we’ve always done.

It isn’t working and isn’t going to work!

When I interviewed Tim Fangmeier about ministry sabbaticals (read the interview here and here) a few weeks ago, I loved his honesty! “We were doing some small things for pastoral wellness but we had to admit that it wasn’t working. We were fooling ourselves.” Thus his deep conviction that ministry sabbatical can bring lasting impact. (Visit Ministry Sabbatical Resources for more information and resources.)

One final note, before I actually say something of importance: If you’re a congregation member…do something! If you have oversight of pastors…do something! And, if it’s “you”…do something!

Pastoral Satisfaction and Calling

Let’s look at some data released by Barna in March 20231.

In 2016, 72% of pastors were “very satisfied” with their jobs!

Today, only 52% of pastors are “very satisfied” with their jobs!

That’s a 20% drop! Maybe fully covid related? Maybe only partially related?

In 2016, 53% of pastors were “very satisfied” with their current church

Today, only 38% of pastors are “very satisfied” with their current church!

A 15% drop!

In 2016, 66% of pastors were more confident in their “calling” than when they began ministry.

Today, only 37% of pastors are more confident in their “calling” than when they began ministry.

A 29% drop!

So that you don’t think I’ve suddenly turned into a “data guy”… With each statistical tilt I can close my eyes and think of any number of women and men in PLI learning communities that have incarnated these numbers and name the reality of their struggles and the impact of PLI in their lives.

I’d say we have a problem! And, I don’t get angry all that much, but when I see women and men—young ones and not so young ones—living out these realities, with no one reaching out to help, or deciding to stop living out these realities and do something different, easier, more rewarding… it makes me angry. 

So, imagine for a moment! If leaders in the sunset years of their ministries opt out, that’s tragic! But if leaders in their early years opt out, we witness a crisis that will impact the church for decades to come!

David Kinnamon, Barna Group CEO described the implications as: “Grim!”

So, let’s take the next few weeks. Lock arms together. Learn some more and look at how we can help each other!

Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:29

If you’re facing these same struggles and realities, Leadership Essentials may be a place to start doing something. A new cohort starts this fall in Southern California, and will be offered in both English and Spanish. Contact Raechel to get started.

1 Data collected from these articles:

Pastors’ satisfaction and certainty of call in decline

Excerpt: A Rapid Decline in Pastoral Security

2 Responses

  1. Jock,
    I do not have data but an observation to why Pastors are not satisfied with ministry. The answer is not on the surface but underneath. I hear guys dissatisfied because they want ministry to be easy. They like to avoid conflict, change and keep the status quo. Covid killed their plan and made changes. They can’t coast and don’t feel confident to move forward. Many are actually moving backwards and blaming the flock for unfaithfulness. They beat faithfulness because there is no mission or vision. It’s harder at all levels. We need more rest, tools, leadership capacity for the ministry today. But to admit that, feels just has had as the discouragement many are facing. So a lack of hope to take on the challenges as if it will make a difference so we build a theology of protection and hope to make it. Sounds negative but it is not when you see God at work and the opportunities that are there. God is building His church, lets join Him.

  2. Tarhib IT says:

    Many people have stopped attending church in person during the pandemic, and some may not return. Pastors are now grappling with how to minister to a congregation that is both in-person and online.

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