A growing number of Protestant pastors in the U.S. have considered leaving full-time ministry, according to a Barna Group report published Nov. 16.
More than one third (38%) reported that they had seriously considered doing so in a survey conducted by Barna in October. This is up from 29% in a January survey.
Pastors under age 45 were far more likely than those over 45 to think about quitting by a 46% to 34% margin, female ministers were more likely than male ministers to do so, and mainline pastors (51%) were far more likely than pastors of non-mainline congregations (34%) to think about a career change.
Using six categories to assess pastoral well-being – relational, spiritual, physical, emotional, vocational and financial – only 35% of Protestant pastors were “healthy,” meaning they reported feeling “excellent” or “good” in each of the six areas.
By comparison, 41% are “average” (“excellent” or “good” in at least three areas), while 24% are “unhealthy” (“excellent” or “good” in fewer than three areas).
Regarding vocational well-being, 29% reported feeling excellent, 41% good, 20% average, 7% below average and 3% poor.
Protestant ministers’ emotional well-being was in the worst state of the six indicators, with 16% of respondents rating themselves as poor or below average.
By comparison, 13% reported feeling poor or below average for physical well-being, 12% for financial, 10% for vocational, 8% for relational and 7% for spiritual.
“We started seeing early warning signs of burnout among pastors before COVID, with initial warning bells sounding in Barna’s The State of Pastors study in 2017,” said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “Now, after 18 months of the pandemic, along with intense congregational divisions and financial strain, an alarming percentage of pastors are experiencing significant burnout, driving them to seriously consider leaving ministry.”
The full report is available here.