Pastors are called to shepherd their flocks, but many find they are sacrificing their personal needs to fulfill their ministerial responsibilities, according to a recent investigation.
The poll, conducted by Lifeway Research from March 30 to April 22, 2021, asked approximately 1,000 Protestant pastors from across the United States to identify the greatest need in their personal lives.
More than half of pastors said they manage their time and more than a third said they find a balance between work and home.
There “Study on “greatest needs of pastoralists” found 44 issues in all the pastors identified, broken down into the following categories: Ministry Difficulties, Spiritual Needs, Mental Challenges, Personal Life, Self-Care, People Dynamics, and Skill Development Areas. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Fifty-one percent said time management was an area that needed their immediate attention or investment, while 43 percent cited the need to balance work and home.
Meanwhile, 29% of pastors said they needed to pay more attention to their children, 26% needed to pay more attention to their marriages, 23% said caring for aging parents and 18% said financial stress.
According to Lifeway, one in six people said they saw no need to invest more time in any of these areas.
Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, told the Christian Post that the survey was not an assessment of areas pastors deem important but need attention at this time in their lives.
“The study asked a representative group of pastors to respond to many different aspects of ministry and their personal lives that need attention,” he said. “Each of these possible priorities came from other pastors and they were presented in the context of discerning those who need the most investment today.”
Most pastors, McConnell said, are not at the parenting stage. Less than a third of the pastors who participated in this study are between the ages of 18 and 44, meaning the vast majority were either late in the parenting years or beyond.
The burden of time management seems to fall significantly on those with smaller ministries. Pastors of churches with fewer than 50 people in attendance are most likely to say they need to pay attention to time management the most (39%) and least likely to say balancing work and home (14%).
Although they spend much of their time caring for others, pastors are quick to recognize their own needs, with nine in 10 naming at least one area of self-care as a personal need.
Another 14% say that taking care of themselves is the most difficult for them personally.
More than half of all pastors surveyed said they struggled to make time to exercise consistently and avoid overwork and overcommitment. Just under half said that eating well, missing work and resting are personal challenges.
McConnell said that while the study didn’t ask pastors why they had these needs, it’s not uncommon for pastors to find it difficult to meet their diet and exercise goals.
“Congregations demand a lot from their pastors, and most pastors have a hard time saying no to extra work. That alone can make it difficult to find the time pastors need to take care of themselves,” he said.
Age, church size, and race also appear to be factors in pastor overruns.
Those with higher attendance at worship services were much more likely to say they find avoiding overcommitment and overwork to be a challenge for them than pastors in churches of 50 people or fewer.
Pastors aged 55 and older are also more likely than their younger colleagues to say they face persistent illness, while African American pastors (63%) are more likely than white pastors (42%). ) to say that constant rest is a need for them. .
McConnell says the findings could surprise those who sit in the pews every Sunday without peeking behind the ministry’s curtain.
“Many congregants have no idea what pastors and ministers do each week. Usually the last thing that comes to mind is what the apostle Paul taught in Ephesians 4:12that pastors and teachers should “equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” he said.
“Instead of focusing on their own responsibility to edify the body of Christ, many expect the clergy to do the work and be present whenever the doors are opened.”