As expected, our pastors are under increased pressure, but the good news is that they are not quitting en masse, a new study has found.

According to Lifeway Research, 63 percent of pastors surveyed say they “frequently” feel overwhelmed. They also stated that their top three reasons for leaving the pastorate are burnout, church conflict and a change in calling.

“Pastors faced increased stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, as churches were frequently forced to adapt overnight,” Lifeway found. “More felt their role was overwhelming at times, yet very few pastors decided to actually leave the ministry in recent years.”

The good news is that while the challenges of running a church may be growing, at the same time, only one percent are leaving ministry, a number that is the same as back in the old days of church: 2015.

“COVID-19 was neither a small nor short-lived stressor for pastors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Many have speculated that pastors have been opting out of the pastorate as a result. That is not the case. They are remaining faithful to the calling at levels similar to those seen before the pandemic.”

According to the Lifeway study, most pastors say they are on-call 24 hours a day and their role is frequently overwhelming. Half of pastors say the demands of their job are often greater than they can handle. Many say they feel isolated and face unrealistic expectations from their church. One in 5 pastors admit they frequently feel irritated at their church members.

“The impact of the pandemic may be most noticeable in pastors’ increased agreement that the role of being a pastor is frequently overwhelming, which jumped from 54% in 2015 to 63% today,” said McConnell. “But there has also been a shift in how some pastors think about their work. Fewer pastors agree they must be ‘on-call’ 24 hours a day, declining from 84% to 71%. Perhaps even more telling, the majority of pastors (51%) strongly agreed with this expectation in 2015, while only a third (34%) strongly feel this obligation today.”

With the church being in a new post-Covid era, this may be the time that we see a new generation of digital-savvy leaders take our churches to the next level. With this younger age group not all about bigger numbers and premises, we might just see a rise in a new style of leader to take us into the future.

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