pastoral health

I just got back from a quick visit to Phoenix, Arizona.  I’ve only been in AZ in the summertime prior to this visit (and it’s crazy nasty), but I now understand why so many folks choose to spend their winters in Phoenix.  It was about 70 degrees and warm with a slight breeze.  Anyway, I am part of a group of pastors that aid our denomination in the discussion and work towards building ‘pastoral health and excellence.’  Couple years ago, we received a grant from the Lilly Endowment Fund of about $1.7 million dollars.  Not exactly chump change. The funds go towards a variety of things that iIm still trying to understand but the issue is very simple:  the ministerial profession (life as pastors) is now considered one of the most dangerous or unhealthiest profession.  It’s usually rated last or second to last.  Nice.

Read this:

48% of them think their work is hazardous to their family’s well being.  Another 45.5% will experience burnout or depression that will make them leave their jobs.  And 70% say their self-esteem is lower now than when they started their position.  They have the 2nd highest divorce rate among professions. 

Who are they?  They are pastors…[read the full article]

While I love being a pastor and even more, being called to be a pastor, I want folks to know how incredibly difficult it is at times to handle the complexities and stress of being a minister.  Finally, at the age of 36, I feel more at peace at how to create boundaries, love my church, deeply care for my wife and children, but I worry that I am failing my staff and pastors at the church I planted 5+ years ago.  They are such amazing people who have given and sacrificed so much because of their love for Jesus, this church, and their partnership with me.

Want to read more overwhelming statistics:

  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with spouse and that ministry has a negative effect on their family.
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner once a month.
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75% report they’ve had significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 58% of pastors indicate that their spouse needs to work either part time or full time to supplement the family income.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say they have no close friends.
  • Pastors who work fewer than 50 hrs/week are 35% more likely to be terminated.
  • 40% of pastors considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months.

Simply, pastors are underpaid, underappreciated, and at times, undermined.  My point is very simple:  Please care, pray, and love your pastors (and church staff) in your local churches.  Seriously, give them a nice payraise, more time off, regular opportunities to get away for even a day retreat to pray, buy them some dinner certificates, honor their spouses, love their children, pray for them, and regularly share your appreciation and affirmation.  Now, I know that this can easily be intended to perpetuate the victim language or mentality, but it’s a two way street.  Churches must seek to honor its pastors and staff and build healthy structures to ensure such care.  Similarly, pastors and their families must make choices to be holistically healthy!  Especially in light of the fact that we all know that pastors aren’t perfect and that they [I] will fail.

This past year, I was very thankful that our church’s Leadership Team gave the pastoral staff significant pay raises. It’s still low but much more fair.  While it was offered before, I received my first payraise since Quest was planted in 2001. In addition, all the pastoral staff were given 4 weeks of vacation.  I was very thankful that they raised my rest schedule to 5 weeks of paid vacation with one optional week of unpaid vacation.  Thank you.

37 Replies to “pastoral health”

  1. At the first church I served we had an insurance agent who was a member of the congregation. When I went to see him about some auto insurance needs, he said “hey, wanna see something that will scare the crap out of you?” I kinda said ok, not sure what was ahead of me 😉 He pulled out a form that had various professions rated for their risk of giving life insurannce policies to… did that make sense? There was a name for the form which I have forgotten, maybe some of you insurance types can tell me what the form was?? Anyway, to make a lengthening story shorter, he showed me that Clergy members were in the same catagory as Deep Sea Welders and Loggers as the second highest risk group to give life insurance policies to. We were behind crab fishermen but ahead munitions workers. It was a little distirbing to know that statistically I was gonna die due to my profession before someone who builds explosives. This was back in 1994 the statistics may be better (or worse) now.

  2. Wow. Pastor Eugene, I just want to thank you for your service to our church and community. You do an outstanding job that really means a lot to me and the rest of our church family. If the recent growth of our church is any indicator, your ministry is bearing much fruit. Cheers, my friend.

  3. does it sound too self-serving (as a vocational pastor myself) to say that this is a great post? 🙂 seriously, though, in the last seven years i have been in full-time ministry, i have seen & gone through exactly what these statistics describe. i have seen too many friends and peers drop out of vocational ministry for these very reasons (and have been tempted myself to follow their lead).

    not too slam the korean-american church, but sometimes i think that k/a churches would almost think that a pastor who embodies these statistics is a good pastor (i.e., constantly working, even at the expense of family life for ridiculously low wages) and anyone who doesn’t is not. there is definitely value in hard work — but there has to be a balance.

    maybe i should forward this to my church leadership 😉

  4. daniel: no, that isn’t self-serving. and i’ll say it. this is a significant post that i’ve been forwarding to other pastors and friends. they need to know . their churches need to know. we need to all get healthy – for the long run.

    on another note, i’ve realized how much deeper i need to care for my staff. there’s a part of me that things, ‘i suffered when i was younger, then need to suffer. it’s good for their character…’

  5. well, as a pastor’s wife since i got married, i didn’t realize that i’m in the church all the time. it tells me that i am ‘ pastor’s wife’ not ‘minhee jin cho’….(it was big shock that people called me ‘samonim(pastor’s wife in korean not minhee) well, it’s been ten years, and i know that it is hard to find close friend….because i think church look at me as a ‘pastor’s wife’ not just ‘friend, friend’..i’m not judging anyone or i don’t want to convince my thought to anyone but this is true. so do you know what i’m praying? i want to change that thought. i want to make close friends in the church (i already have some)and i want to engage to them as ‘pure minhee who is God’s creation’ and i will ask them to recognaze me as ‘minhee-christian-not perfect-needs happy hour-nature of human-chat with simple things and want to be loved….’ eugene does his best at home . thank you and i love you. let’s keep our love strong in Christ.

  6. re: “there’s a part of me that thinks, “i suffered when i was younger, they need to suffer. it’s good for their character..”

    maybe they’ve suffered enough in their lives already.

    is there something theological that says it’s wrong to be healthy, fulfilled, encouraged, loved, mentored? is there something theological that says we shouldn’t care for one another, for the congregation, or for our leaders? do you want to teach your staff to care for other leaders in the church by causing them to suffer as well? just a thought.

  7. anonymous:

    umm, that was my point. that’s not a good thing; we need to keep each person healthy, fresh, fulfilled, encouraged, loved, and mentored…

    that’s our goal. will you do your part?
    thanks for stopping in and apologies for the lack of clarity.

  8. i’ve come across these statistics before, and it always shocks me to see them again. i’m a pastor, and i totally believe in the numbers. thanks for the post.

  9. Pastors are human, barely. No rational person would suffer that treatment. There must be something that drives you to it…
    I’m a lay person. The church I belong too does its part to make a Pastor’s life miserable. So, we are doing our part in helping to get you more jewels in your crown by keeping up the stress. We abandon your vision, fire your hand picked assistants after we burn them out, & after a long and faithful service our congregation, we’ll fire you one year before your retirement and expect you to go as Christ went to the cross, in love without complaining. I praise God He has created courageous men & women like you that suffer the cross for the Glory of God and say “Lord, forgive them for they don’t know what they do”. THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE. But my thanks is nothing. Its eternity that drives you & God’s thanks will be infinitely more.

  10. 3-12-07

    This statistics are certainly indicative of reality. What solutions are being suggested here? I’ve heard about rest, but that is just part of the picture. Do you have stats on missionaries? Do you have stats on teachers either in church, Christian schools, universities, seminaries, or other type schools, with stats? Do you have stats on evangelists? I’d like to see the whole picture about ALL church related workers. That will also reveal something to us.

    Rev. David Hammock

  11. My wife and I left the evangelistic field in 2006 after the Lord called us to pastor an independent church which we had held a revival at. This church was being pastored by the founding pastor who had been their for 50 years. The first 3 months were wonderful then the trouble started. Some of the “ladies” in the church began to turn on my wife and children. We started to get vulgar, uncalled for letters at our home. This torment continued for the next nine months. It became so unbearble that it was tearing our family apart. The church was growing and filling up with new people that had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. We had one family in the church who controlled everything….The finances, the property, the music etc. It finally came to a head in a meeting and tempers flared. This “head trustee” and his family callled an “invitation only meeting” at which time we were voted out by 19 of the older church members (at the time we were running well over 100 on Sunday mornings. That was on a Tuesday night. As my wife, our children & I left the meeting, I turned at the door and announced that we would be pioneering a brand new church and anyone who wanted to serve the Lord in Spirit and in Truth was welcome to attend. Our first service was the following Sunday morning…..We had 95 people in attendance and it has grwon steadily since. People’s lives are being changed by the Power of God.
    Now after 6 months some of the “ladies” that came with us have started the NONESENSE again. They were happy in the beginning but, now they are upset because of our music program, or Sunday School program and on and on and on.
    Let me just say that God taught me a lot in that first year of “Pastoral Boot Camp” and the devil can’t do anything to discourage me now. When people approach me with complaints or they threaten to leave the church if they don’t get their way, I just tell them that’s why I placed exit signs over all of the doors, so they could find their way out. A few have left and continue with the nasty calls and gossip sessions but, all in all God has Blessed us Supernaturally.
    If there is ever anything that I can do to be of help to any Pastor or Ministry please do not hesitate to call upon me!!

  12. My wife and I are pioneer missionaries in Manila, Philippines, and over the past 9 months have experienced several financial crisis. Someone recently sent me a quote from Hudson Taylor, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.” (While I would have to review his biography again to see when he said that, my guess is that it was very early on, prior to experiencing many of the challenges that he later faced. The fact is that the majority of full-time laborers in the Father’s fields face financial challenges- not because Father is unwilling or unable to provide, but because the Body fails to follow the Head’s direction. God has chosen to (primarily) meet the needs of the various members of the Body- and for His work, through the Body. Too often many members either are out of tune with the Head- not receiving His directions, or simply not listening… Truly we are very, very far from that first church in Jerusalem, where “they had all things equal.” A genuine revival is needed, for these are matters of the heart…

  13. Ministry Friends,

    I have experienced much of the same as described since beginning church ministry in 1982. Ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church, I’ve now been a U.S. Navy chaplain for 15 years and many of the challenges are the same. For this reason, I wrote my Doctor of Ministry final project at Fuller Seminary on Self-Care (2007). While some of it is specific to Navy (military) chaplains, a great deal of what I write about regarding a balanced life is applicable to anyone in ministry. I will be happy to email the electronic text of my project to anyone who sends a request to me at Just put “Request Self-Care Project” in the subject line so I know it is not spam.

    The essential thesis is that, in imitation of Jesus Christ, human beings need to continually grow and develop in healthy ways in all four aspects of their beings: intellectual, physical, spiritual and social/emotional. See Luke 2:52, which is the springboard for the entire project. The key is balance. It won’t do to be an all-star in 2 or 3 areas and neglect 1 or 2 others. What you neglect will be your downfall—and may kill you (literally) or at least degrade your marriage, ministry, career, etc. This project focuses on the need for clergy to intentionally cultivate balanced health so that they can withstand the rigors of ministry over the long haul. Many, many specific strategies are suggested. The goal is to finish well as measured by the quality of 1) one’s relationship with the Lord at the end of career and life, and 2) the degree to which you met your potential for contributions to the Kingdom. Intimacy and fruitfulness. Notice I didn’t say size of church, salary, or academic degrees, or titles, or publicity!

    I just recently taught this material to 30 chaplains who will in turn offer this training to other chpaplains in their regions. My goal is that this work will provide dividends for not only for chaplains, but also for civilian clergy, their families, and our ministry customers. I continue to study the topic of self-care and hope to be teaching the general concepts in other venues, military, civilian clergy, lay folks. Your comments/critique would help me continue to improve the content.

    Many Blessings to all in your journey of caring for yourself so you ARE ABLE to care for others!

    Jeff Saville

  14. The bottom line on all the stats; consider the following:

    1-We’re married to Christ, not the church. If a husband or wife, we also have a spouse. The priorities are: A. God; B.Spouse; C. Family; D. Others(i.e. Church).
    2-Who’s carrying the load? Christ or man? His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
    3-Is micro-managing taking place, because a minister is controlling? Let go. Identify gifts and talents of others. Train them. Delegate. Set them Free, Let others grow.
    4-People pleasing will wreck you every day. Seek the kingdom 1st…the rest falls into place.
    5-Is this really your calling? If not, then go do something else. No one wins if the pastor is miserable.
    6-Are you really hearing the voice of God?
    7-God leads us besides still waters. He keep us in perfect peace if our mind is stayed on Him.
    8-Maybe you’ve outgrown your church.
    9-Maybe your church has outgrown you.
    10-Maybe a retreat or sabbatical is due.
    11-Maybe hiring a person, or asking for more volunteers will help.
    12-Manage your time better.
    13-Re-arrange your priorities.
    14-Maybe it’s time to leave the church you’re in and go where you’re appreciated.
    15-Consider your first love.
    16-If your personal time with God is out of order, so will everything else be, no matter how talented, gifted, anointed and called you are.
    17-Is their a hidden agenda somewhere?
    18-If you’re not listening to your wife, then why not?
    19-What is the impact on the children in the pastor’s family?
    20-Do you really want to hear what God is saying to you in all of this crazy-making behavior?

    Rev. David Hammock
    Founder, President & CEO
    Revivals For America
    5804 Coffey Street
    Raleigh, NC 27604-8661 USA

  15. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Work it out. If you can’t dialog and do some real problem solving…someone is simply selfish. Pastors don’t work to get paid; they work because they are called of God. It is the highest calling in the land. Spiritually, a pastor is on the front lines. But so is God. If the appropriation of grace and other resources of God is not taking place, then find out why. It isn’t God’s fault. He promised to meet us in the midst of fiery trails. he promised to supply all of our needs. We can do ALL things “GOD WILLS FOR US TO” through Christ Jesus(not those things He doesn’t will for us to do).

    Rev. David Hammock
    Revivals For America

  16. A few additional thoughts:

    1-Without a vision the people perish. The vision isn’t about the task, it is about the truth and the teacher of the truth. It is about being in the presence of God in order to behold His face, and dwell in the secret place that you may abide under the shadow of the Almighty. What better place to live?
    2-His strength is made perfect in our weakness. In the midst of every fiery trial-“Think it not strange.” In every fiery furnace, is the 4th man there with you? In every lion’s den, are the mouths of the lions closed for you? In the Valley of El ah, is the battle your’s or the Lord’s?
    3- Admit your strengths, weaknesses, limitations and vulnerabilities to your self. Congregations recognize weakness very quickly. Allow God to deal with each, and be genuine with your flocks. Phoniness is a form of deception-Don’t live a lie.
    4-You’ve just begun the journey. It is a marathon.. not a sprint.
    5-Is your church a pioneering kind of church or; is your church a homesteaders’ kind of church that just like things the way they always have been? Which are you?
    6-Is your church just too cheap and too stubborn to support you? If so, I would be looking elsewhere.
    7-Your assignment is the highest calling in the land, and the least appreciated. Jesus wasn’t appreciated by the establishment either.
    8-When you have done everything…STAND!
    9-Understand that we wrestle more against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places in “religious” communities than any other place. Don’t forget who Jesus’ accusers were.
    10-If you’ve allowed a Jezebel spirit that is controlling, manipulative, exploitive, lying, deceptive, you have allowed a spirit of witchcraft to gain a foothold. We don’t negotiate and tolerate spiritual “terrorists.” Remember Elijah. Jezebels spirits are no laughing matter, and their home is the church. (See the Book of Revelation).
    11-Seek no strategies that do not originate with God to do anything. It will save you a lot of time, money and disappointment.
    12-Don’t have expectations of your wife that God doesn’t. If married, you married a person, not a building, or an organization.
    13-Always view your calling as a call to relationships. Build people and your ministry will grow. Serve God and He will befriend you.
    14-The majority of churches in the USA are under 200 in attendance. About 0.5% are over 2000. Make sure the Lord is building the house, not you. (Psalm 127:1).
    15-Always remember, ..”And a little child shall lead them.” This is key to understanding leadership from God’s point of view.
    16-God can transcend any statistic. His statistics reveal TRUTH. The statistics of man reveal FACTS. Facts change. Truth never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Heaven and earth may pass away but God’s Word will never , never, never pass away. It will work in any situation.

    Rev. David Hammock
    Founder, President & CEO
    Revivals For America

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