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Barna Research: Stress, Loneliness, and Politics Named as Top Reasons for Pastor Burnout

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VENTURA, CA – Barna Group [on April 27] released their latest survey on the well-being of pastors, finding that the number of pastors who are “seriously considering” leaving full-time ministry sits at 42%. This number has increased 13 percentage points since January 2021, when 29% of pastors were considering quitting ministry.

Among pastors who have considered leaving full-time ministry, the top three reasons that have influenced their thinking are the immense stress of the job (56%), feeling lonely and isolated (43%), and current political division (38%).

At the same time, these are also the top three factors causing burnout among pastors who have not given thought to leaving ministry. Pastors in this group still say their top three tensions affecting the ability to lead their church are the immense stress of the job (34%), current political division (32%), and feeling lonely and isolated (18%).

“Intense leadership challenges of the past two years — such as congregational divisions over the pandemic, politics, social unrest, and building digital ministry from scratch — continue to weigh heavily on pastors,” said David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group. “The toll is continuing to add up for pastors, who are essentially frontline spiritual workers. They need empathy and support as much as any time in the crises of the last two years.”

Many who have not considered leaving ministry are anchored by their calling and the importance of their work. The top three reasons pastors give for not considering quitting full-time ministry include the belief in the value of their ministry (83%), the duty to stay and fulfill their calling into the ministry (75%), and job satisfaction (73%).

“While the same issues are negatively impacting pastors across the board, it’s hopeful to see resilience among those who feel a strong sense of fulfillment in their job and impact,” said Joe Jensen, Vice President of Church Engagement of Barna Group. “This rising number shows the need for pastors to have the support and resources to help them manage these stressors in a healthy way. It’s also a wake-up call for church congregations to ensure they’re caring for the well-being of their pastors and gain a deeper understanding of the pressures pastors face every day.”