Top 2 Causes for Pastors Leaving Ministry and More Statistics

More than 70% of pastors do not have a close friend with whom they can openly share their struggles. The dominant cause for pastors to leave the pastoral ministry is burnout. Number two is moral failure. These are alarming statistics. And there are many more:

  • 80% of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries – 1998)
  • Only 50% of pastors felt that the education they received adequately prepared them for ministry. Most pastors rely on books and conferences as their primary source of continuing education. (George Barna – 2002)
  • 25% of all pastors don’t know where to go for help if they have a personal or family conflict or concern. 33%  have no established means for resolving conflict. (George Barna – 2002)
  • 40% have no opportunity for outside renewal like a family vacation or continuing education. There is a very clear relationship between the amount of time a pastor takes for personal renewal and his satisfaction in his job. (George Barna – 2002)
  • At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit. (Church Resource Ministries – 1998)
  • More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month. (Marble Retreat Center 2001)

August 1998, excerpts from James Dobson’s newsletter:

Our surveys indicated that 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses are discouraged or are dealing with depression.[6] More than 40 percent of pastors and 47 percent of their spouses report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations.[7] We estimate that approximately 1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month, due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention within their local congregations.[8]

Why are pastors struggling? There are many causes. The Fuller Institute of Church Growth found in 1991 that 80 percent of the clergy feel their families have been negatively impacted by the church, and 33 percent consider the ministry to be an outright hazard to their families.[9] Financial burdens are common as well. The majority of pastors are heavily in debt, due to college and seminary expenses. These and other problems  often lead to serious marital conflict and family dysfunction. Unfortunately, the embarrassment or gossip within the church leads some couples to avoid needed counseling services.


  • [6] Compilation of surveys from Focus on the Family, Pastor’s Gatherings.
  • [7] Ibid.
  • [8] Ibid.
  • [9] Fuller Institute of Church Growth, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.

1991 Survey of Pastors (Fuller Institute of Church Growth)

  • 90% work more than 46 hours a week
  • 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
  • 33% believed ministry was a hazard to their family
  • 75% reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry
  • 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
  • 70% say they have a lower self esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
  • 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
  • 37% confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend

George Barna, What Americans Believe

  • Less than one half of the people most committed to the church say that their church performs its primary duties with excellence
  • 2 out of 3 adult Americans (67%) say there is no such thing as absolute truth

Blackmon & Hart, Clergy Assessment & Career Development

  • 12% of ministers report they were depressed often or always in their ministry

Malony & Hunt, The Psychology of Clergy

William Moore in a study of 341 clergy from 36 denominations and 43 states showed that unrealistic expectations are a major factor in pastor burnout:

  • 60% of clergy wives hold full time jobs or are involved in careers
  • Some studies suggest 70% of clergy report experiencing major distress
  • 33% have considered leaving the ministry

Leadership, Fall 1992 Marriage Problems Pastors Face

  • 81% insufficient time together
  • 71% use of money
  • 70% income level
  • 64% communication difficulties
  • 63% congregational differences
  • 57% differences over leisure activities
  • 53% difficulties in raising children
  • 46% sexual problems
  • 41% Pastor’s anger toward spouse
  • 35% differences over ministry career
  • 25% differences over spouse’s career

Current Thoughts & Trends, December 1992

  • 28% of pastors said ministry was a hazard to family life
  • 16% said it didn’t affect family either way
  • 57% thought it was beneficial
  • 94% felt under pressure to have the “ideal” family
  • Estimated 20% of 300,000 clergy suffer from long term stress
  • One year the Southern Baptist paid out $64 million in stress related claims, second in dollar amounts only to maternity benefits

Leadership, Fall 1992

  • 70% indicated their compensation contributed to marriage conflicts
  • 22% feel forced to supplement their church income

Current Thoughts & Trends, May 1992

  • Last 3 years, typical pastor’s salary increased less than 1/2 the inflation rate
  • Average increase for 1988-1991 was 7.4%
  • Over 40% of single staff pastors felt they were underpaid
  • 33% of senior pastors felt they were underpaid

Duane Alleman, Theology News & Notes, Fuller Seminary

Survey of 228 Pastors’ wives revealed:

  • 45% have no close friends
  • almost half felt constrained to develop close friends in the local church context

Ministries Today, Nov/Dec 1992

Peter Wagner surveyed 572 pastors concerning prayer:

  • Average pastor spent 22 minutes a day
  • 57% spend less than 20 minutes a day
  • 34% spend between 20 minutes and 1 hour
  • 9% pray for 1 hour or longer

Focus on the Family Survey

  • 1500 pastors surveyed
  • Over half do not meet with a prayer partner regularly
  • 1 out of 4 do not have a trusted friend in ministry
  • Only 20% have 2 or more paid staff members

Current Thoughts & Trends, July 1992

  • 3 out of 4 church members would give their pastors an “A” (44%) or a “B” (33%)
  • Only 4% would give them a failing grade
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics – 422,000 claim to be clergy persons
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  • John Crowe

    As a minster with 20 years of pastoral experience before my health failed and from my doctoral research into clergy and church health, I think there are several layers to
    this problem.

    1. Research has found that today’s clergy have more stress and less support than the previous generation of pastors who had far less stress and far more support.

    2. There is some truth in an article that I read online which said that the health of many pastors reflects the health of a church.

    3. A lack of a theology of personal stewardship of one’s health and that it is ok to take care of oneself.

    4. The unrealistic expectations of churches who expect pastors to be so involved in church work that the pastor’s spouse and children have to fend for themselves.

    5. Poor boundaries of some clergy and laity along with codependency issues.

    6. Walking on eggshells around church bullies while others in the church get beat up.

    7. What I like to call Burger King consumerism where it is basically “have it your way”
    Christianity and if you don’t get it your way, problems result.

    8. Hyper individualism which leads to a “me and Jesus have our own thing going”
    outlook that does not view the church as the body of Christ and not a bunch of
    lone rangers.

    9. Too much focus on gaining numbers in the pews and offerings in the plates with the sacrifice of discipleship of people into a community of faith as the body of Christ.

    10. The business model is killing churches and abusing clergy as the book Clergy Killers points out.

    11. Churches are theologically underfunded especially in the area of Ecclesiology (teaching about the church) and over analyzed by family systems theory without any
    spiritual power.

    There are several links that I’d like to share.

    1. Triage & ER Care for Clergy page with ministries listed by state for hurting clergy.

    2. Clergy Health Research and Reports.

    3. A page with a section of articles for clergy and their families dealing with various clergy and parsonage family health issues. Scroll down the page to B. Clergy and

    4. The role of doctrine for developing healthy churches.

  • mikey00860

    And 90% should have never been in a pulpit, Take a good look at the news everyday, Money laundering, stealing offering, sex with women in church, Gay sex in church, Preaching a property gospel, Feel good doctrine, Pulpit pimps, Hippie Gospel, Hollywood Preachers. All done by educated derelicts, intellectual Barbarians, anything goes, Everything the world is doing you drug it into the church, voting there politics through the church. You cannot educate God in a person, God is known by Grace through faith. Christ is something you possess and not run all over the world confessing it. A sinner can live a moral life, Christian are set a part from the world. The word Church mean elected called out people not a building. All these man made organization want to do is get more members, that means a bigger pay day. We were suppose to preach the gospel and not build mega dome’s and mega Churches, Glass Churches, and entertainment center. Preach the Gospel to every creature, that not been done yet. Who we preaching about Christ or our self. People don’t take on the Christ spirit, they take on the Pastor spirit, his wife spirit. The Holy Spirit is suppose to run the Church, but your to smart for that so we educated it into them. It will never work, unless you get saved and run the Church the way it supposed to be run.

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