Standing Stone Ministry is dedicated to shepherding shepherds. It is a unique ministry and a unique calling. Most people haven’t considered the fact that shepherds need shepherds of their own. But they do. We take our jobs seriously; therefore, we pay attention when new studies are published that speak to the state of the modern pastor. One such study, The State of Pastors – How today’s faith leaders are navigating life and leadership in an age of complexity, was just published (early 2017) by Barna Group. The findings were encouraging overall, but also point out the need for ministries such as Standing Stone.
“The good news is, the vast majority of pastors are personally content and spiritually motivated toward growth and transformation – yet almost every pastor needs greater support in some way from the community of faith. And, a small but significant percentage of pastors is at risk in some critical dimensions of their lives.”
The Good News
Most pastors sensed their calling to ministry between the ages of 14 and 21. Overall, 85% attended church as a child and 8 in 10 were part of a youth ministry.
A sense of calling deepens with time and experience.
Families usually weather the challenges of ministry – though half say their current church tenure has been hard on their family.
Even when earning less, pastors thrive in other ways.
The Not-So-Good News
As a cohort of leaders, pastors are getting older. Older generations struggle to hand the baton to younger pastors, the median age has risen from 44 to 54 over the last 25 years.
1 in 3 is at risk of burnout. More than one-third of pastors are at high or medium risk of burnout, and three-quarters know at least one fellow pastor whose ministry ended due to stress.
Nearly half of pastors face some sort of relational risk. 43% of pastors are at high or medium relational risk, whether they are experiencing challenges in marriage, family, friendships or other close relationships.
One in five pastors has struggled with an addiction – most commonly, to porn – while almost half have faced depression.
What We Are Doing About It
Nothing in this report came as a surprise. Our Shepherds receive calls daily from men and women currently serving in the church. We hear the stories of marital struggles, personal issues, impending burnout, and problems with church boards and congregations. Our Shepherds listen, pray, advise, and mentor; offering a lifeline when life and ministry seems overwhelming. Decades of ministry experience are an invaluable resource for pastors and their spouses who have need.
We’re taking a three-pronged approach
- Our major emphasis is through personal relationships. Our Shepherds are mostly comprised of retired, semi-retired, and bi-vocational pastors and their spouses who understand the special privilege of ministry, yet also recognize the special challenges. Our Shepherds care for other shepherds, offering safe and completely confidential relationships where men and women can share freely, without judgement – simple as that.
- We also offer week long retreats for ministry couples – one ministry couple with one retreat shepherd couple. Ministry couples seek a retreat for various reasons, but all leave feeling refreshed, encouraged, strengthened, and challenged to return to their churches with fresh vision and renewed energy. Strengthening the marriage of the ministry couple is one of our main areas of focus during a retreat.
- We offer an opportunity for pastors (and spouses) who are aging out of pulpit ministry to still have an active and very important ministry that fully utilizes their hard-won wisdom and years of church experience.
Prevention is Key
It is our desire that our leaders stay healthy and in the ministry; thriving in the calling of God on their lives. It is important that their marriages reflect Christ to the churches and communities they serve. Our Shepherds are helping to accomplish that by forming relationships with pastors and their spouses allowing them the opportunity to share their hurts, fears, struggles, and needs before they make poor decisions that could have devastating consequences. No man or woman should feel that they are alone.
HELP US SPREAD THE WORD
The newest Barna report reiterates the importance of, and the need for, Standing Stone and ministries like ours. We are encouraged by the good news and motivated by the not-so-good news. More pastors need to know about our ministry. Church boards need to be aware that our Shepherds are available as a resource for them and their leaders. Retired and semi-retired pastors need to know that they can use their life and ministry experiences to help others and to continue to make a significant difference. That’s where you come in. Please help us spread the word that Standing Stone is here to help. Share this article. Direct others to our website www.standingstoneministry.org. Partner with us to bring “greater support” to our pastors and their spouses.