Thom Rainer Reveals the Secret Pain of Pastors

Not all the news about pastors is discouraging, but there is a secret pain of pastors that we need to address.

Not all the news about pastors is discouraging, but there is a secret pain of pastors that we need to address.

Pastors feel privileged to be called to their places of ministry. They have a deep love for those they shepherd. Most of them could not conceive of doing anything else.

But please hear me: Many pastors are hurting.

LifeWay Research conducted a national survey of Protestant pastors. Among the questions they asked were two related to the hurts I noted above.

Secret Pain of Pastors: Discouragement Factor

One of the key symptoms of the pain experienced by pastors is discouragement. More than one-half (55 percent) of pastors are presently discouraged.

I suspect that if we surveyed pastors over just a few months, we would find almost all of them experience deep discouragement.

Some interesting facts we discovered in our study:

  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the geographical location of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the size of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the educational level of the pastor.
  • There was a significant pattern of discouragement related to the age of the pastor. The younger the pastor, the more likely he was to be discouraged.

Secret Pain of Pastors: The Loneliness Factor

Most pastors experience intense loneliness at times.

When we conducted our survey, more than one-half again (coincidentally the same number, 55 percent, as noted above) said they were lonely. Again remember that this survey was for a specific point in time.

Which pastors experience the greatest amount of loneliness? Our study noted some discernible patterns:

  • There was no pattern of loneliness related to the geographical location of the church.
  • Younger pastors were more likely to be lonely than older pastors.
  • The larger the church, the greater the likelihood the pastor was experiencing loneliness.
  • The greater the education level of the pastor, the more likely he is to be lonely.
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Thom Rainer
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.

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