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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

POLL: Pastors Need More Pampering

[Hamilton Spectator] They may be doing the Lord's labour but the working conditions can be hell.

A recent study of Ontario clergy in six major Protestant denominations found the majority are feeling isolated, stressed out and spiritually spent.

Compiled at Knox College, University of Toronto, the study entitled, Clergy Well-Being: Seeking Wholeness with Integrity, cites a church "in crisis" in which 77 per cent of clerics surveyed reported feeling more like a CEO than a pastor.

Eighty per cent said they felt guilty if they took time off despite working 60-plus hours a week. Eighteen per cent said they didn't have a close friend.

Steeltown pastors say they're not surprised by the findings, including a United Church minister helping to spearhead an 18-month-old provincewide union drive in his church.

"We've also been hearing about isolation, a lack of support for clergy, (and) a bureaucracy that doesn't stand beside its clergy when a congregation is problematic, even when that congregation has a history of problems and clergy abuse," said Rev. Dr. David Galston, pastor at Eternal Spring United Church. "A union can benefit clergy and address the issues this study identifies."

Rev. Dr. Andrew Irvine, who heads up the Centre for Clergy Care and Congregational Health at University of Toronto, sent surveys to 30 per cent of Ontario's Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical Lutheran, Pentecostal, Presbyterian and United church clergy.

In a world of plunging church attendance, ministers are forced to focus on the survival of their parish and denomination more than on providing spiritual leadership, Irvine said.

"With the old model of the church, the church had respect because it was the church," Irvine said. "I think in today's culture, any respect that the church has needs to be earned again."

According to Statistics Canada, the surveyed denominations (except Baptists) lost adherents between 1991 and 2001. Declines ranged from 5 per cent for Lutherans to 36 per cent for Presbyterians. Baptists saw an increase in their ranks of 10 per cent.

That adds up to big-time stress for both clergy and congregants, Irvine said.

Rev. Canon Kristine Swire, rector at Church of the Ascension, said enormous stress comes from trying to fulfil the promise a pastor makes to God upon ordination. And when they are not serving their congregation, they're looking after their families.

"Clergy has a bad habit of playing the lone ranger," Swire said. "You do everything yourself and you avoid co-operation because maybe some of my people will start going to your parish.

"I wish we could get past seeing our parishes as the boundaries of the world," she added. "We're part of something much bigger -- the Kingdom of God."

FOR DISCUSSION: Do you feel more like a CEO or a pastor?  Do you have a close friend?  Do you feel guilty taking time off?

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May 2, 2006 in Trends in Today's Church | Permalink

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I wonder if Jesus thought it was "hell" or Paul while in Prison or being killed. Peter upside down on a cross. John boiled in oil. and the many others in Fox's Book of Martyr's.

Sounds to me like there are too many pampered people in the wrong "business"

Posted by: BeHim | May 2, 2006 11:42:14 AM

I am glad pastors are not being boiled in oil. Progress has been made. That doesn't mean that isolation (18% without a close friend?) unfulfilled purpose (survival mode vs. ministerial) and the other problems listed above aren't worthy of discussion and consideration.

Posted by: Julie | May 2, 2006 11:55:37 AM

How can the church be effective if the leaders are impaired? I do not worry about the hours that pastors put in, in fact many of the hours we have might be lost because of poor work habits or organizational skills. How many hours are we praying and reading and meditating. How can care for souls of others if ours is in disrepair? What has been the net effect of crisis that pastors find themselves in?

I do not think we ought to whine about it, but we ought be aware of hat makes us healthy and prepared to lead the church. Isolation is not the Kingdom method. Neither is constant and unnecessary criticism from the church. It is fine to be criticized from the world, that is expected, but not from those who call Jesus Lord. There is no badge of honor in having members who favorite hobby is making the life of the pastor miserable. Peter might have been hung up side down, but itn't was by the deacon board.

Posted by: Kent | May 2, 2006 12:49:27 PM

You're hitting on the point: "I do not think we ought to whine about it"

Peter didn't teach us to complain...

He would have been: "praying and reading and meditating."

Posted by: BeHim | May 2, 2006 1:01:21 PM

Yes BeHim, there are a lot of pastors who complain long and loud, but there are more and there are way too many who simply cannot take it any more or are unwilling for their families to have endure the attacks of fellow believers they have to worship along side. And Peter never taught that either.

BTW my typing just stinks, and even with all my efforts is not likely to improve any time soon, so sorry about that

Posted by: Kent | May 2, 2006 2:00:58 PM

Pastors are often told to keep relational distance from the people they work with. That the objectivity needed to make hard decisions must not be compromised.

Can pastors and church leaders be real friends with staff and congregants? I think so. I hope so, because I like to think of our leadership team as real friends.

I believe that it is not enough simply to hire staff or to build a ministry team, I think the aim needs to be to grow a community of leaders who serve together on a common mission.

We call on God's people to live in biblical community, yet we model something quite different. We tell church members to love one another when staff only work together. Church leaders are the ones responsible for the creation of community life while they live isolated lives. There are too many statistics showing too many pastors and their spouses are painfully lonely and over stressed. Friendship is a vital part of New Testament ministry and leadership.

I’ve never pictured Jesus in merely a professional working relationship with his disciples. He loved them. They lived life together: no eight-to-five relationship and then go home. Jesus was growing a leadership community serving together on a common mission. More than a common vision, their hearts were ignited together by a burning passion.

There can be a painful downside of this approach. It may require a pastor to fire someone he loves. In spite of the pain of those moments, I am convinced this is the best way. We must return to the kind of community where we love each other enough to speak the truth in love. When we know someone well enough, we will long for them to become what God longs for them to be.

Erwin McManus tells a story of his leadership team. He saw that they were becoming a true community when the church faced a financial challenge. One by one, the team started offering their salaries with a commitment that they would continue their work as volunteer staff. The sacrifice they were willing to make told him they are not working at a job, but were growing together into a genuine community of leaders.

Posted by: DanielR | May 2, 2006 2:41:50 PM

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