More than 1 in 10 pastors admitted to contemplating suicide in the past year according to the 2021 Pastoral Mental Health Report compiled by Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software, and Church Communications, a 29,000-member community and Facebook group.
The survey, which paints a sometimes dire picture of the role of the pastor, highlights the need for more support for those in church leadership.
“In the past year, pastors have faced new and deepening difficulties – from the spread of COVID-19 and having to move online to stop the virus’ spread to increased social and political unrest,” said Faithlife Co-founder and CEO Bob Pritchett. “We knew it took a toll on pastors’ mental health, but we weren’t sure how it would look. This survey gives us a greater understanding of both the needs of pastors and ways we can help them as they shepherd us.”
PASTORS JUGGLE MULTIPLE RESPONSIBILITIES
With the majority of churches having less than 100 congregants, many pastors find themselves wearing numerous hats ranging anywhere from the role of the pastor and preacher to the administrator and tech team. This impacted the mental health of pastors this year in particular.
Approximately 35% of pastors reported feeling burned out, with 40% of pastors aged 25 to 40 saying they agree or strongly agree to feeling constantly burned out. This is nearly double the rate at which pastors aged 60-plus reported feeling burned out (21%).
IMPACT OF PASTORAL CARE RESPONSIBILITY
While most pastors (55%) are fulfilled by the responsibility of giving spiritual and emotional support to their flock, many survey respondents noted how pastoral care is a mix of highs and lows, with 45% finding it draining.
UNMET NEEDS CENTER AROUND SUPPORT
The survey also highlighted the gaps for pastors in relation to support with 19% noting that their greatest unmet need is dividing responsibilities with elders or staff.
Another 17% said friendship is their greatest need.
The good news is that well over half of pastors (62%) affirm that they have a network of pastors they can ask for advice or support, and 82% agree that they have friends they can confide in when times are tough.
THE FUTURE OUTLOOK
Overall, the survey on mental health found that an overwhelming majority of pastors feel optimistic about their next year in ministry. However, 29% expressed concerns. Of those, 14% are considering leaving their church, 7% are contemplating leaving ministry altogether and 8% reported general pessimism about the upcoming year.
“While some of the numbers in the report seem dire, God is still working in the Church and the hearts of his people,” said Pritchett. “There are initiatives, such as the Thrive and Cultivate Mental Health Summit by Church Communications, that are shedding light on how pastors can care for hurting people in their congregations while also paying attention to their own needs.”
DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE REPORT
Methodology: Faithlife and Church Communications surveyed 345 pastors in 27 countries (74% US, 9% Canada, 5% Australia and New Zealand, and 12% international) for the report. The pastors represented a wide range of church sizes, denominations and roles within the church.