The number of U.S. Protestant pastors who feel confident about their calling and satisfied with their vocation has plummeted, according to a Barna Group report published March 15.

While a majority (52%) of Protestant pastors are “very satisfied with their vocation as a pastor,” this is a 15-point drop from 2020 and a 20-point decline since 2015.

Around one in three pastors currently “feel very satisfied with their ministry at their current church” (38%) – down nine points from 2020 and 15 points since 2015.

A similar number (35%) “feel more confident about their calling compared to when they first entered ministry.” This number is unchanged from 2020, but it is 31 points lower than in 2015.

“Pastors have been frontline workers of a sort the last three years, and the toll of stress, isolation, resentment and division continues to impact pastors negatively. It is alarming that the number of pastors experiencing satisfaction in their work continues to decline,” David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group, said in a press release announcing the report.

“This drop in vocational satisfaction may cause significant problems for churches in the future,” he said. “This research underscores the need for major interventions to support and sustain pastors in their work.”

Two-thirds of pastors under 45 “have personally gone through a period when [they] significantly doubted [their] calling as a pastor or minister,” compared to 45% of respondents over 45.

“Overall, the percentage of pastors who say they have gone through a period when they significantly doubted their calling for ministry has more than doubled since 2015 (from 24% to 55% in 2022),” the report said.

The full report is available here. The overall margin of error for the 2022 data is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. For 2020, it is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. For 2015, it is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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