Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Research on church worker wellness: what you should know

Reading time: two minutes.

Clergy anxiety and burnout was first identified as a significant issue nearly a century ago, and has been researched for decades, with recent emphasis on the wellbeing of all church work employees. Here are some statistics that have been consistently reported for decades that I think you’ll find helpful, along with a couple of comments. Here we go, (and keep going to the end where we find really good news!)

Clergy Burnout: At any given time, right around 20% of clergy are going through a very difficult period of anxiety, depression or burnout. This has been a constant figure for decades, and affirmed in LCMS studies of our own pastors. Another 20% show signs that they are heading for such a crisis.

Comment: Pay careful attention to your wellbeing. We’re supposed to work hard and get tired, but if your resilience, the ability to bounce back, starts to lag, seek some professional help. If you note that your body is doing the work, but your spirit is absent, reach out for the care you need. Concordia Plans members, call 866-726-5267, the Employee Assistance Program. Today!

Family Life: 85-90% of retired pastors (and their wives!) report that they endured at least one significant time of marital or family struggle related to the demands of ministry.

Comment: This one is easy. Think how you would counsel others about how to care for their families. Do that!

Unreasonable Expectations: The number here is 13. That’s the number of separate “clusters of activity,” each of which could be considered a different career path, in which parish pastors are expected to be proficient each month. That’s crazy.

Comment: Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Have a frank conversation with congregational leaders about the ministry of the whole body, working together. Some things only the Pastor can do. Many other things can be shared!

Commissioned Ministers and their Pastors: In the recent LCMS study, 34% of Commissioned Ministers said they have no one to turn to for pastoral care.

Comment: Pastors, build caring relationships with your ministry team!

Loneliness: Also from the LCMS study: 27% of pastors say they have no one they could talk to about any concern on their heart.

Comment: I think the number is higher. I’d ask the 73%, “When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with that person you could turn to?” My experience is that most pastors are not having those conversations regularly.

Now the good news…

Job Satisfaction: As long as this has been studied, clergy are always, far and away, the occupational group that finds the greatest satisfaction in their work. Ministry is hard, but it’s really great!

Comment: We love what we do, but it can be hard on us. Take care of yourself. You are loved, respected, and greatly needed by those you serve.

I know this has been hard to read, but I hope you find it helpful. Remember that self-care for the sake of your ministry endeavors, is not selfish.

God bless you in all of your adventures of faith and service!

Thanks for reading.