When thinking about ministry difficulties, pastors say they’re most concerned with growing the people inside the church and reaching those outside it.
According to the latest release in Lifeway Research’s 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors study, U.S. Protestant pastors say developing leaders and connecting with people not involved with a church are their two most prominent ministry needs.
“Paul’s instructions to ‘preach the word; be ready in season and out of season’ strike a chord within pastors like never before,” said Ben Mandrell, president of Lifeway Christian Resources. “In the midst of ministry challenges, it’s no surprise that their top felt needs are multiplying leaders and reaching the unchurched.”
Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, noted that despite pastors having many personal needs, they often place a higher priority on the needs of their churches. “There is much agreement around the areas of ministry that need their attention today, because these needs have been the core work of disciple-makers since the Great Commission: equipping believers to share the gospel with unbelievers.”
Ministry Difficulties Identified
For the 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors study, Lifeway Research interviewed 200 U.S. Protestant pastors who identified 44 issues they face in their roles and then surveyed 1,000 additional pastors to determine which of these needs was most prevalent. The almost four dozen needs were divided into seven categories: ministry difficulties, spiritual needs, mental challenges, personal life, self-care, people dynamics and areas of skill development.
Among the five needs classified as ministry difficulties, two resonate with pastors more than the others. More than 3 in 4 pastors say developing leaders and volunteers (77%) and fostering connections with unchurched people (76%) are among their greatest needs.
A majority of U.S. Protestant pastors also say training current leaders and volunteers (68%) and challenging people where they lack obedience (55%) are challenges they face. Slightly fewer (45%) say they need to establish a compelling vision for their congregation. Around 1 in 20 pastors say they did not need to give specific attention to any of these issues right now (6%).
“Pastors are personally burdened with the need for their churches to share the good news of Jesus Christ with their community,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “This makes their personal priority list because their church is often less effective than it used to be. In addition, many don’t even know where to start in helping their congregations connect with non-believers outside the church.”
White pastors (77%) are more likely than African American pastors (63%) to say they are finding it challenging to foster connections with the unchurched. African American pastors (68%) are the least likely to say they need to give attention to developing leaders and volunteers.
The youngest pastors, those 18 to 44, (82%) are more likely than the oldest pastors, those 65 and older, (71%) to find forming connections with the unchurched an area in which they need to invest more time. Similarly, younger pastors (82%) are more likely than older pastors (70%) to feel the need to give attention to developing leaders and volunteers, as well as training current leaders and volunteers (74% to 62%).