The vast majority of pastors say they feel support from other ministers in their communities, but that encouragement is less prevalent in some places. According to a study from Lifeway Research, 82% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they feel supported by other local pastors in their area, with 44% strongly agreeing. Few (14%) disagree, while 4% aren’t sure. “Nobody can identify with a pastor like another pastor. That’s why relationships between pastors are so vital,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “It’s one thing to be aware and know the names of other pastors who are sharing the same gospel message in your community. It’s another to invest in supporting and encouraging each other.”
Large church pastors, those with weekly worship service attendance of more than 250, are the most likely to say they feel supported by other local pastors (89%). In the Northeast, where there are traditionally fewer Protestant churches, pastors are less likely to agree they feel supported by other pastors (75%) than pastors in the Midwest (84%).
A 2015 Lifeway Research study on pastors leaving the ministry found about 1% leave the pastorate prior to retirement each year, but more than 1 in 3 (35%) agree they feel isolated as a pastor.
Encouraging Pastor Connections
While a large majority of pastors say they feel encouraging support from other local ministers, most are getting that support from only a handful of area pastors. Slightly more than half of U.S. Protestant pastors (54%) say they personally know and spend time with fewer than 10 other local pastors.
One in 20 pastors (5%) aren’t connected with any area pastors, while 8% only have relationships with one to two other ministers. A quarter of pastors (24%) say they know three to five, and 18% spend time with six to nine other pastors.