The Spiritual Landscape
Mean Sheep: When Clergy Are Abused
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA (ELCA) 2006
- 35 percent are at risk for the consequences of lack of physical exercise.
- 13 percent indicate they take medication for depression.
- Insurance claims are three times higher than average professions.
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (UCC) 2001
- 27 percent of congregations from every denomination and faith community have experienced a conflict within the last two years that led some people to leave the congregations.
- 70 percent of the pastors fight depression on a regular basis.
- 70 percent of pastors do not have a close friend.
- 1 in 5 pastors are in the advanced stage of burnout.
- 50 percent of pastors surveyed are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but they have no other way to make a living.
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.) 2004
"Dropout rate" of pastors during the first five years of ministry has increased fourfold in the last thirty years. Stress—while 'stress' is experienced in many professions, studies have identified particular situations that specifically impact pastors' feelings about their work. The leading 'stresses' are:
- Inadequate skills in managing what are perceived to be unrealistic expectations of the congregation;
- Unrealistic expectations of pastors entering a new call, especially their first call; and
- Feeling lonely or isolated.
CLERGY STATISTICS FROM EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SOURCES
- 80 percent of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries, 1998).
- 33 percent of pastors have no established means for resolving conflict (Barna Group, 2002).
- 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses are discouraged or are dealing with depression (Dobson, 1998).
- The Southern Baptist Convention paid out $64 million in stress-related claims, second in dollar amounts only to maternity benefits (Current Thoughts and Trends Magazine, 1992).
CLERGY STATISTICS FROM FULLER (1991)
- 90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
- 33 percent of pastors believed ministry was a hazard to their family.
- 75 percent of pastors reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry.
- 70 percent say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry.
- 40 percent reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
So, what can clergy do? There are no easy answers and implementing even the best advice is no simple matter. But here are some thoughts:
One, reduce the tensions created by idealistic expectations by getting real with yourself.
Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: http://frederickwschmidt.com/