Apr 19, 2023
Excerpt: What Pastors Wish They’d Been Prepared For
When asked about their favorite part of the job, most pastors say they enjoy preaching and teaching (60%). But this aspect of ministry is just one of many responsibilities pastors carry when it comes to serving their church and community.
This article, an excerpt from Barna’s new Resilient Pastor series—part of the larger Resilient Pastor initiative and available exclusively on Barna Access Plus—offers new data on what pastors enjoy about their job as well as aspects of ministry they weren’t completely prepared for when entering their role. You can read the full article today on Barna Access Plus.
When asked what they liked about being a pastor, respondents overwhelmingly highlight preaching and teaching, with 60 percent saying this is their favorite part of the job (in a distant second place is discipling believers, with 8 percent).
Of course, through the pandemic, preaching and teaching began to look very different in many churches around the country. The early COVID era highlighted the need for pastors to think beyond preaching as the lodestone of their ministry and be intentional about what else their church provides to the local community.
Broadly speaking, recent years may have amplified many pastors’ insecurities about what they have to offer their communities. Comparing data from 2015 and 2020, Barna found that pastors across the nation were facing a shocking surge in perceived gaps in their own training.
- In 2015, just 27 percent of pastors said they wished they’d been better prepared to handle conflict. In 2020, that number shot up to 40 percent.
- In 2015, 20 percent of pastors said they wished they were better prepared to delegate and train others. In 2020, 41 percent said the same.
- In 2015, 16 percent of pastors said they wished they were better prepared to navigate church politics. By 2020, 36 percent of pastors said the same.
Since 2020, there has been a steadying in some of these numbers, though they are still well above 2015 levels. Barna has also begun polling about some new possible stressors, such as technology integration or crisis management, which the pastorate seems only moderately prepared for.
These jumps in common stressors are thrown into even sharper relief when controlled for age. Younger pastors more often than their older colleagues wish they’d had better preparation to handle issues like conflict (47% of pastors under 45 vs. 37% of pastors 45+), crisis management (32% vs. 15%) and leadership demands (29% vs. 17%).
In short, the next generation of pastors says they feel unprepared for some of the biggest challenges facing the modern Church. Whether as a major contributor or a serious consequence, this sense of being unprepared is part of the growing epidemic of burnout.
Editor’s note: The data above, as well as past Barna data, highlight a drastic decrease in pastoral satisfaction and security. While the data is grim, the aim of this new series—which will include reporting on self-leadership, church leadership and culture leadership—is to offer support and solutions for churches and their leaders. It is our hope that the data and insights shared will serve as a call to action for church communities to rally around their leaders and offer them strength and support in the face of current challenges.
Further reading and resources:
- The Resilient Pastor series—part of the broader Resilient Pastor initiative—is available on Barna Access Plus. Tune in now through the end of May to catch new monthly releases pertaining to the current state of pastors in America.
- For the first excerpt from this series—which covers the decrease in pastoral security and confidence—check out this article.
- Read this article to review data on pastors’ increased risk of burnout in 2021.
- Pastors offer the reasons why they’ve considered leaving full-time ministry in this article from 2022.
- Barna data in this article shows that, for pastors who want to quit ministry, self-care and soul-care are slipping.
About the Research
2015 data: Barna conducted 901 interviews with Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. between April and December 2015. The interviews were conducted through a mix of online and phone. Quotas were set to ensure representation by denomination, church size and region. Minimal statistical weighting was applied to maximize representation and the margin of error is +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.
2020 data: Barna conducted 408 online interviews with Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. from September 16–October 8, 2020. Quotas were set to ensure representation by denomination, church size and region. Minimal statistical weighting was applied to maximize representation and the sample error is +/- 4.8% at the 95% confidence level.
2022 data: Barna conducted 585 online interviews with Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. from September 6–16, 2022. Quotas were set to ensure representation by denomination, church size and region and oversampling was conducted to reach female senior pastors. Minimal statistical weighting was applied to maximize representation and the sample error is +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.
Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.
Excerpt: A Rapid Decline in Pastoral Security
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