Thursday, 28 April 2022

US Protestant Pastors are Thinking of Quitting in Increasing Numbers as Congregations Dwindle and Trust Falls

Pastors Share Top Reasons They’ve Considered Quitting Ministry in the Past Year - Barna Group

Hard on the news from Gallop that their latest survey shows a steep and accelerating decline in membership of churches and other places of worship, comes news that there has been a sharp increase over the past year in the number of Protestant pastors seriously thinking of quitting.

42% of Protestant pastors have given serious consideration to quitting in the last year, compared to just 29% in 2021. Towards the end of 2021, Barna reported that this figure had reached 38%. This represents a 145% increase in absolute terms over the year and those who say they have given it consideration now far outnumber those who say they haven't.

The top 10 reasons most of these give for considering leaving their profession are:
  1. The immense stress of the job (56%)
  2. I feel lonely and isolated (43%)
  3. Current political divisions (38%)
  4. I am unhappy with the effect this role has had on my family (29%)
  5. I am not optimistic about the future of my church (29%)
  6. My vision for the church conflicts with the church’s direction (29%)
  7. My church is steadily declining (24%)
  8. I am not satisfied with my job (22%)
  9. I don’t feel respected by the congregants (21%)
  10. I don't feel equipped to cope with ministry demands (19%)
Interestingly, it's not until we get down to number 14 on the list of reasons to think of quitting that we find a crisis of faith (6%), or, as it should be termed, an intrusion of reality. I assume that this 6% is the number of pastors over the previous 12 months who have had doubts about their religion. I wonder how many of those have had more than one such crisis or whether this means 6% of pastors in any one year get a sudden attack of rationality.

To a scientific rationalist like me, it seems bizarre beyond belief that the clerical profession can have these 'crises of faith' which are accepted in the profession as normal and requiring special support to overcome them. Can you imagine a physicist for example, suffering a crisis of believing in the evidence for the Laws of Thermodynamics, or Gravity, or a pilot suffering a loss of faith in aerodynamics and doubting that his plane is going to stay up? Religious clerics have these 'crises of faith' because they have no evidence and even the reasoning of apologetics is flawed and transparently false.

It's not clear from the report what exactly is meant by 'Current political divisions'. Are these political divisions within the church or in American society generally? If not the latter, then it seems the way so many Christian churches abandoned their principles and supported Donald Trump, because they had a whiff of political power, seems not to have played a major part in their doubts, unless the internal divisions are between pro- and anti-Trump factions.

Perhaps significantly, of those who said they had not considered quitting, most of gave a very similar list of factors which they felt caused tension, with seven of the top ten causes of tension being the same as the causes of considering quitting.

Their top ten causes of tension are:
  1. The immense stress of the job (34%)
  2. Current political divisions (32%)
  3. I feel lonely and isolated (18%)
  4. My church is steadily declining (12%)
  5. I am unhappy with the effect this role has had on my family (10%)
  6. I am not optimistic about the future of my church (9%)
  7. My vision for the church conflicts with the church’s direction (8%)
  8. I don’t feel respected by the congregants (5%)
  9. I don’t have what I need to be successful in my job (4%)
  10. I don’t feel supported by my staff (4%)
Clearly from both these list the current decline in membership and attendance has not gone unnoticed with both groups citing the steady decline and a lack of optimism about their church's future as important factors. Not surprisingly, given the behaviour of many pastors recently, and their readiness to compromise principle for power, both groups of pastors have noticed a lack of respect for them from their congregants. In the past decade, due to the behaviour of (mostly but by no means all) Catholic priests, religious clerics have lost their place as the most trusted of professions and are now regarded as not the sort of people to leave in charge of children or vulnerable people.

Although not specifically covered in this survey, the Autumn 2021 survey revealed that pastors from 'mainstream' Protestant churches are more likely to have considered quitting than from non-mainline denominations (51% and 34% respectively). There is no reason to suppose that this ratio has changed significantly. That earlier survey also revealed that female pastors were far more likely to have considered quitting than male pastors.

It seems that their congregants are not the only ones finding reasons to quit as trust in pastors plummets and congregations across the USA dwindle at an increasing rate, leading to a further drop in the morale of the pastors. Even those pastors who didn't consider quitting in the last year are feeling the same pressures as those who are finding these pressures intolerable. It is likely then that this trend will increase and turn into actual departures in the next few years.

Thank you for sharing!

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1 comment :

  1. Church became a politically driven (pro-Trump and the big lie) group-think social club with the pastor's wife as queen bee. Getting a COVID shot was determined by her to show a lack of faith. Unwillingness to go along, entirely independent of Biblical mandates, was reason enough for verbal abuse and ostracization. Irony being that the congregation was seldom over a dozen but she was hell bent on kicking people out.


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