Happy Shiny Pastors
Research shows pastors are the most satisfied professionals, but not everyone agrees.

Last month the Chicago Tribune reported that pastors are the happiest people on earth - really. Research done by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center found that clergy ranked highest in job satisfaction and "general happiness." They even out ranked highly paid professionals such as doctors and lawyers.

The article reports:

Eighty-seven percent of clergy said they were "very satisfied" with their work, compared with an average 47 percent for all workers. Sixty-seven percent reported being "very happy," compared with an average 33 percent for all workers.
"They look at their occupation as a calling," Carroll said. "A pastor does get called on to enter into some of the deepest moments of a person's life, celebrating a birth and sitting with people at times of illness or death. There's a lot of fulfillment."

Can this possibly be true?

Since I entered seminary I've been bombarded with the horror stories of pastoral ministry. Like the enlisted men trembling as General Patton pontificated about the brutality of war, new seminarians are told the sobering statistic about ministry burn-out, moral failure, divorce, and depression. Ministry, we are told, isn't for the weak. Only a clear calling from God will keep us in the game, because apart from that there is little for church leaders to rejoice about. Shepherding sheep, they say, is a dirty job with few earthly rewards.

To illustrate the popular rhetoric Pastor Darrin Patrick from The Journey in St. Louis compiled this list of statistics from organizations like Focus on the Family and Barna Research:

? Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.

? Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.

? Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.

? Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

? Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

? Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.

So, what is the truth? Are pastors the happiest and most satisfied people in the world, or the least? Are the statistics about pastoral burn-out and depression inflated? Do we overstate the hardships of ministry as a perverse way to make us feel more noble and courageous for continuing? Or, are most of us actually experiencing deep contentment, pleasure, and spiritual satisfaction in our labors?

Perhaps there is another explanation for the disparity in the statistics. Maybe the University of Chicago polled pastors on Saturday, and Barna polled them on Monday?

May 23, 2007

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Cath, 5th Generation Pentecostal Minister

May 31, 2007  10:28pm

Wow, one thing we can't dispute is that pastors are long-winded!!! Seriously, though, a life-long battle with depression (that blessed family tradition!) has taught me that: It's when we take the focus off the fact that JESUS is the answer and adopt a ridiculous sense of OUR OWN responsibility for every tiny facet of every single person's well-being that we become burnt out, depressed, poor lovers, cranky parents, and generally "UNHAPPY". I have learned to love what I do - but it's often a daily battle with the flesh!!

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Jim Martin

May 29, 2007  12:47pm

My tendency is to think that these negative statistics are somewhat exaggerated. That is not to dismiss these concerns. There are far, far too many ministers who experience some very real negatives as the result of pastoral ministry. These are very real. I don't know that pastors are overwhelmingly happy in this role. However, that is not to dismiss the fact that many of us are very happy and really enjoy this life.

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richard

May 25, 2007  5:50am

Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. I would be more surprised if the stastistics were much less than they are since the learned gospel appears so greatly to preach unity to a creed or core values rather than a Living, Vibrant, Risen and Honestly Humble and Spontanous Life that seems to be so rare. Myself, I never tell anyone that the church is the answere, nor that going to church is the answere but always point to the Head which is the Life seated at the right hand of God. I am told, and by God's Grace believe, we are not of this world even though we are in it. Many teach that bringing someone to church is bringing them to salvation. Many it would seem, experience salvation as church members when they are at the church building or pot luck, once out of familiarity they are in a battle which they think is theirs. When God gives us the single eye, and He totaly did... Jesus, then we see the organized church as a symbol of the everpresent Church where there isn't any room to see God allowing a wasted moment that didn't work towards redemption. If the bride in a marriage is a symbol of the Church, and She is, then how do we view her? Could we indentify ourselves as with a blind man who fell in love with Her when he was told of Her beauty and then after having his eyesight restored beheld a lady full of makeup and effort to please her groom? There are many "small" churches and many "large" churches out in the world but you can't identify them by size only by the Life they gained by the life they lost. If the above appears to anyone as giving disscredit to meetings as in the one where I raised my hand so many years ago... it is not. The best place is always where God has us and in that we don't complain about our work nor what God is doing, nor who should get paid for how much. Thank you.

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Dorsey

May 23, 2007  10:07pm

I admit I'm cynical, but I wonder how many respondents answered the survey questions sincerely and how many approached the survey with the same facade with which they have been conditioned to approach everything else.

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