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According to just about every stat I hear, pastors hate the ministry, are miserable, would get out what if they could—and that it is hurting their family. You've probably heard these statistics at a pastors conference. So, we decided to do a crazy thing—we actually asked them.

We find a different picture when we actually ask the pastors. There is discouragement and loneliness, but when 98 percent agree it is a privilege to be a pastor, we also know there is a great honor to being a pastor.

Here is a portion of our release:

A full 98 percent agree with the statement, "I feel privileged to be a pastor," with 93 percent strongly agreeing. Only about 0.5 percent of pastors disagree with the statement.

Yet more than half (55 percent) also agree with the statement, "I find that it is easy to get discouraged," and 55 percent say being in pastoral ministry makes them feel lonely at times.

Pastors 65 and older are also most likely to strongly disagree (39 percent) with the statement, "Pastoral ministry makes me feel lonely at times." Twenty-nine percent of those ages 55-64 strongly disagree, as well as 21 percent ages 45-54 and 19 percent ages 18-44.

Ironically, pastors of larger churches are lonelier. Of those in congregations with average attendance of 250 or more, 17 percent strongly disagree that pastoral ministry makes them feel lonely at times. In comparison, 32 percent with churches of 0-49 and 27 percent with churches of 100-249 strongly disagree.

Pastors feel privileged, but clearly the reality of constant service can take its toll. There is discouragement and loneliness in ministry. It appears that the larger the church the more present the loneliness.

Positively, nearly eight in 10 pastors (79 percent) disagree with the statement, "Being in ministry has had a negative effect on my family." A majority (58 percent) strongly disagree. Twenty percent somewhat disagree, 15 percent somewhat agree and 4 percent strongly agree...

The study found that 18 percent of pastors have more than 10 close friends in their congregation. Sixteen percent have six to 10, 38 percent have three to five, 10 percent have two, and 4 percent have one. Twelve percent of pastors have no close friends in their congregation.

Relationships matter and it appears that pastors value those friendships—particularly as they get older. Older pastors (and I would add, younger pastors with wisdom) have developed more close friendships within their church and are less likely to be discouraged or lonely. This combination mirrors workplace studies that have shown that more friendships at work correspond with higher satisfaction with a person's job and life.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for EvangelismPreviously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Ed recently started Mission Group in order to create unique and practical resources for church leaders. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.

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Talk about it...

Eugene Rhee

commented on Jan 13, 2012

So, how many people took part in the survey? 10?20? 100? Who took the survey? Men? Women? Where was the survey taken? Africa? Asia? Russia? Southeast region of the US? Results of a survey are pretty obsure if the parameters of the suvey are not given.

Dennis L. Martin

commented on Jan 13, 2012

I would really like to hear what ministry spouses have to say about ministry and how ministry families feel about ministry. I know that what is said of pastors is often said to be worse among ministry wives.

Trevor Payton

commented on Jan 13, 2012

I do feel very privileged to be a pastor, because God himself has called me to this role. However, I have often found that a large number of the many expectations placed on me are either unrealistic (I'm not Jesus, just his messenger) or idolatrous (used to reinforce an un-surrendered life). When those expectations rear their heads, it's hard to see ministry as a privilege at all...or rather, it just seems like ministry has morphed (or been morphed) into something else. The pastor's job is to preach the Word, be in prayer, and equip the saints for the work of ministry (2 Tim 4:2, Acts 2:42-43, Eph 4:11-13). That is my calling as a pastor, and I feel immensely privileged to work in that calling; the ONLY times I see ministry as a chore are the times when I feel pressured to do things other than that "because he's the pastor."

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Jan 13, 2012

You have no doubt that God placed in the right place, but at times you may wonder has He forgotten where He placed you?

Michel Maniguet

commented on Jan 13, 2012

Ed - If you did something crazy by asking the pastors, who did the folks who produced the other stats ask?

Kevin Gillespie

commented on Jan 13, 2012

Some good information in this study. Being a pastor myself for 12 plus years, I agree with some of it and disagree with some of it. I know the loneliness of ministry and have experienced the stress and pain that it places on families. However, I have no reason to believe that a secular job wouldn't do the same. I also find that no one study paints the complete picture. When viewing two similar studies, my experience tells me that the truth is somewhere in between the two. More information on the study would be helpful.

Michel Maniguet

commented on Jan 13, 2012

@Kevin - "no reason to believe that a secular job wouldn't do the same". I spent 17 successful years in a secular job before moving into ministry. In so doing, my stress and family impact increased 10 fold. But to be fair, I know some whose level of stress in their secular job was much more than what I experienced. I suspect that there is great variation on both sides, and that stress level mostly depends mostly on who you are working with, not what you are actually doing, technically speaking.

Warren Tillman

commented on Jan 13, 2012

I Pastor a small Church in the country. I am where God has placed me, I am doing what God called me to do, and I am His Servant! Maybe I am the exception but I have never been happier in all my life! I would love more money, more church volunteers, more prayer warriors, more attending Prayer/Bible Study...etc.....but God is still Great, Giving , andLoving! Even though we are a "small" Church we enjoy Worshipping and Fellowshipping together! We are family in Christ Jesus!

Jason Bonnicksen

commented on Jan 13, 2012

Nicely written and a good article.


commented on Jan 13, 2012

While the figures are good, I am lost among them. Maybe a chart with more explanation is better.

Joel Rutherford

commented on Jan 13, 2012

Your Comments

Dav Ross

commented on Jan 13, 2012

I've only been a pastor for 10 years, and I would say I have the best 'job' in the world. I do feel like quitting sometimes, and that's usually when I don't feel up to the task. All in all, most of my stress would come from working with volunteers, given that my past history was military for 20 years. Its such a privelidge though, I can't see myself actually walking away from my calling.

Jim Ressegieu

commented on Jan 14, 2012

Warren said it perfectly and I echo his statements--I'm so happy to serve my small church in a very small town. I brag to other pastors about the officers God has blessed me with (and I don't think the other pastors believe me!) It is so exciting to see people I've come to know and love grow deeper spiritually. Praise the Lord for small churches!

James Sellers

commented on Jan 14, 2012

I appreciate the article so much. At times I feel guilty about having thoughts of leaving the ministry. It's at those times the Lord gives me encouragement in some way. I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. It is a previlege to serve with the Lord in His work.

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