Of course, many speculate as to the reason for this precipitous decline. Doubtless, events like the pandemic and general cultural unrest over the past six years have contributed. However, we know from studies done within the Presbyterian Church in America, pastoral wellness is affected by at least two factors:
1. Relational isolation. It is difficult for pastors and their spouses to form meaningful friendships within their churches where they feel safe openly communicating. Many ministry couples have friendships with couples they met at seminary or served alongside at a previous church. But these relationships are often maintained from a distance.
Relationships are critical to our wellness, spiritually and emotionally. Humans thrive when they experience relationships grounded in mutual trust. 64% of ministry couples in the PCA do not feel like they’ve been able to form these sorts of relationships in their context. This is a key contributing factor as to why they exit the ministry for other professions.
2. Pastoral identity. Pastoring is not merely a task. It is an all-encompassing identity. It is difficult for pastors to be seen and treated apart from their calling as pastors, by themselves or others. They tend to judge themselves on how many people are coming to church or the feedback they are receiving rather than rooting their identity in Christ.
Performance and productivity drive many ministers. They feel the need to pray more, visit more people, study more, write more, be more involved in the community, spend more time with their family, and the list goes on. There’s always more to do. Pastors can often feel more like God’s employees than God’s children. As a result, they sacrifice their own self-care, and it leads to burnout.
At Geneva Benefits Group, we are convinced that – in addition to financial and physical health – the emotional and relational health of those who serve in our churches is critical to longevity in ministry. It’s why we offer access to counseling, guidance on sabbaticals, and support pastors’ wives. PCA pastors are not immune from the unique stresses that can lead to ministry burnout. Geneva is taking concrete steps to address these issues, including the creation of a new position to oversee our wellbeing efforts.
The challenges for those serving in the church are real but we believe the head of the church is greater than any of our challenges. Ultimately, we need systems in our churches and denomination that encourage and incentivize pastors to abide in Christ and live from his fullness as they encourage us to do the same.
To learn more about pastoral burnout and how to encourage pastoral wellbeing, check out our latest report at using the button below.
Geneva Benefits Group serves those who serve others, providing practical support for the financial, physical, and mental wellbeing of people who work in full-time ministry.