As an increasing number of pastors are now reporting they have considered quitting their jobs due to stress, loneliness, political divisions and worries like their church being in decline among other things, a new report from Barna shows that pastors who prioritize self-care are less likely to feel this way.
Using survey data collected October 2021 and March 2022, Barna researchers found that pastors who have considered quitting full-time ministry are less likely to prioritize their self-care and are more likely to agree they feel like their own spiritual formation has taken a back seat to pastoral duties.
Among pastors who feel like quitting, less than half or 45% of them say they prioritize their self-care, while some 62% of pastors who have not considered quitting say they do.
Nearly 50% of pastors who feel like quitting said they often feel depressed compared to just 21% among pastors who have not considered quitting. Pastors who feel like quitting are also more likely to feel that their own spiritual formation has taken a backseat to their church responsibilities. Some 67% of pastors who have considered quitting report feeling this way compared to 52% of pastors who have not considered quitting.
Researchers also noted differences in weekly faith practices such as engagement with the Bible among pastors who have considered quitting and those who have not.
“When it comes to weekly faith practices that might help sustain pastors' well-being, data highlight notable differences between pastors who have considered quitting and those who have not,” said Barna. “While all pastors prioritize praying throughout the week, pastors who have considered leaving are less likely than other pastors to prioritize reading the Bible for personal devotions (70% vs. 80%) and time to worship (58% vs. 68%) on a weekly basis.”
Despite the challenges, a majority of both groups of pastors reported that they could not see themselves doing anything else for a living, but the sentiment was much stronger among pastors who had not considered quitting.
Some 58% of pastors who have felt like quitting couldn’t see themselves doing anything else compared to 91% of pastors who haven’t thought about quitting.
More than half of pastors, 56%, who considered quitting full-time ministry in the last year, according to Barna, said, “the immense stress of the job” was a huge factor behind their thinking. Beyond these general stressors, two in five pastors, 43%, reported that “I feel lonely and isolated,” while some 38% said “current political divisions” made them think about calling it quits at the pulpit.
An equal 29% share of pastors also said they felt like quitting because they weren’t optimistic about the future of their church; they were unhappy with the impact the job had on their family or they had a vision for the church that was in conflict with where the church wanted to go. Another 24% of pastors say they considered quitting because their church is steadily declining.
While pastors who have not considered quitting experience some of the same challenges highlighted by those who have considered it, the research shows that the difference maker for them is their mindset to ministry.
Some 83% said they did not consider quitting because they believe in the value of their ministry; 75% say they have a duty to stay and fulfill their calling to ministry, and 73% say they are satisfied with their job. A majority of pastors who have not considered quitting also cite strong family and community support and confidence in their ability as leaders.