New research shows pastors are feeling lonelier and more isolated than ever. Faithwire reports a survey taken last year by Christian researchers Barna Group found most were experiencing greater disconnection from their church communities.
65% of pastors felt lonely or isolated, a huge spike on the 42% recorded in 2015.
Over the same period, the number of pastors who believed they were well-supported by their church teams, fell from 68% to 49%. Only a third received monthly spiritual support from a network of peers or a mentor.
Barna Group says the latest data is a “cause for concern.” The Evangelical research and polling organisation describes itself as “a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generation.”
“With pastor data collected over the past eight years showing the significant erosion of a number of well-being markers including pastoral satisfaction, motivation, support and emotional and mental health, it’s discouraging to see few pastors utilising broader networks of personal and professional help,” it wrote in its report on the findings.
But the researcher did have cause for hope in turning the situation around. “While the trajectory of pastors’ current relational well-being will not be course corrected overnight, small steps and intentional measures can be taken now to begin shifting the trend towards a more positive outcome,” its report stated.
Barna senior fellow and author Pastor Glenn Packiam outlined some of those steps and measures in his book The Resilient Pastor. “The chase for deep friendships and intimate relationships is a lifelong quest, but it can begin today. If we really want to last in ministry, if we want to emerge from this as truly and fully human beings, then we must take seriously the human vocation of loving well,” he wrote.
“These relationships do not flourish by accident. They require attention and intentionality. Life is too full of the demands of ministry, the chaos of kids’ activities, and the many unpredictable events for us to just hope that meaningful connection will just happen,” Pastor Packiam explained.
Last year, another survey by a Christian researcher Lifeway Research found three quarters of pastors extremely stressed and burnt-out from working between 55-75 hours a week.
Pastor Joshua Smith from California’s Light Elk Grove Church told CBN’s Prayer Link at the time of that survey’s release it is important for pastors to recharge. “We need to be wise with God’s calling on our life, steward it, and make sure it doesn’t crush us. We know God’s burden is light, but we also need to pray for a spirit of wisdom, so we can delegate some of those tasks that God has not called us to.”
Pastor Smith added that pastors can’t be in denial of their need for rest, because it is harmful to pour from an empty cup.“You and I need to know what grace we walk in so we are not carrying a burden that we are not designed to carry,” he shared. “We also need to be ok with being human and being vulnerable. We need rest. We need to recharge.”
Pastor Packiam revealed in his book The Resilient Pastor: “Pastors who are bucking the trend toward burnout tend to portray a strong connection with others around them, a flourishing connection with God, and a sense of optimism about the future of the church. They are energised by their jobs, feel well supported by the people in their lives, and are generally satisfied with their mental, emotional, and spiritual health.”
“It is possible to last, to be faithful, to be resilient — not by might, not by power, but by the same Holy Spirit who sustained the church throughout the centuries.” he concluded.