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The Pastors Aren’t All Right: 38% Consider Leaving Ministry

As the pandemic has gone on, burnout continues to take its toll on church leaders.

Sitting around campfire beside Lake Tawakoni in Northeast Texas, pastor Nic Burleson has heard pastor after pastor confess their greatest challenges: depression, church conflict, marital strife, and, increasingly, doubt over whether they should continue in their role.

“We have multiple pastors at every retreat that are contemplating leaving ministry,” said Burleson, who organizes the three-day getaways, sponsored by his congregation, Timber Ridge Church in Stephenville, and Vista Church in Heartland. “In a lot of ways, they feel stuck, which just adds on to the pressure and the burnout.”

Pastoral burnout has worsened during the pandemic. A Barna Group survey released today found that 38 percent of pastors are seriously considering leaving full-time ministry, up from 29 percent in January.

“The change that has been accelerating in the last 18 months has left a lot of pastors with their heads spinning and their hearts spinning as well,” said Joe Jensen, Barna’s vice president of church engagement.

“All the chaos, all the pressure, the magnifying glass of social media, the pandemic, the politics, the hyperdigital context, it makes sense that you have a lot of pastors saying, ‘Is this really what I signed up for? Is this what I was called into?’”

The greater number of pastors rethinking their profession correlates with rising stress and worse mental health in general. Back in 2016, 85 percent of pastors rated their mental wellbeing as good or excellent, according to a previous Barna poll. In the October 2021 poll, it was down to 60 percent.

Pastors who said they have seriously considered leaving the pulpit were half as likely to say they were …

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