How are our ministers’ families doing and what sort of effect is ministry having on the families of our ministers? Along with that, how are our ministers’ doing in their own relationship with God and what seems to affect that? Last, how healthy are our ministers in their ministry? What can they do to help themselves become healthier and what can congregations and leadership do to help? We tackle these questions and more in this post as we continue to report results from our 2017 ministerial health survey.

Marriage and Family Health

98% of respondents were married. This is right in line with Barna’s recent numbers in their “State of Pastors” report. Here are some of the questions and results:

Marital satisfaction

  • Satisfied + Very satisfied = 88% (Good news!)

How spiritually connected are you with your spouse?

  • Connected + Very connected = 81% (Good news!)

How has ministry affected your spouse?

  • Very positively – 9%
  • Positively – 44%
  • Neutral – 23%
  • Negatively – 21%
  • Very negatively – 1% (roughly on 1/5 negative to very negative)

How has ministry affected your children?

  • Very positively – 19%
  • Positively – 46%
  • Neutral – 24%
  • Negatively – 11%
  • Very negatively – 0% (roughly 1/10 negative, no very negative)

How spiritually connected are you with your children?

  • Very satisfied = 24%
  • Satisfied = 57% – (81% cumulative)
  • Neutral = 12%
  • Unsatisfied = 7%
  • Very unsatisfied = 0%

Almost all of these questions correlated highly with each other. That isn’t any real surprise. The one correlation that stood out is how ministry has affected your spouse and relationship with elders! Ministers reported some very positive results here, better than I would have expected. I am very happy to see that. It is still sad to recognize that some are truly struggling.

Ministerial Health

Average hours/week in ministry – 45.5

  • Hours/week in ministry correlates with stress and with relationship with elders (the longer they work the more negative they report their relationship with elders)

What will your next employment be?

  • Congregational ministry – 56%
  • Non-congregational employment – 16%
  • Retirement – 10%
  • Other – 18% (about half of the other was “I don’t know”).

I believe we need to pay attention to this. Roughly half the ministers in this sample are certain that their next job will be in a congregational setting. I find that shocking.

Have you ever considered leaving ministry for good?

  • 63% – Yes
  • 37% – No

I took a deeper look at these numbers through an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). As I said previously an ANOVA compares means between two distinct groups to see if there is statistically significant differences between the groups on continuous variables. I found a number of statistically significant differences (all of these are at the .05 level or better, which means we are 95% sure these is really a difference between the groups of those who have and those who have not considered leaving ministry on a number of things.

They differ statistically on:

  • Satisfaction with mental health
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Spiritual connection with spouse
  • How ministry has affected their spouse
  • How ministry has affected their children
  • Hours in personal study
    • Those who have considered leaving ministry spend on average 2.97 hours/week in personal study
    • Those who have not considered leaving ministry spend on average 4.85 hours/week in personal study. The difference is statistically significant.
  • Their hopefulness about the future
  • Quality of sleep
  • Hours of sleep/night

This shows some distinct differences between those who considered at one time or another throwing in the ministerial towel for good. This also shows us that one way to combat this is to spend more time in personal/devotional study (study not in lesson prep).

Last, we asked about how balanced ministers felt they were in balancing ministry with other responsibilities. We found a high correlation between balance and stress. Less balanced ministers report higher stress that more balanced ministers.

Spiritual health

How are our ministers doing spiritually? How is their relationship with God?  Who do they turn to for help and how often?

91% of ministers report having someone to confide in.

85% of ministers report having someone to confess to.

Who do they turn to for this type of support (other than your spouse)?

  • Minister outside congregation – 33%
  • Friend outside congregation – 29%
  • Friend inside congregation – 18%
  • Elder – 14%

These numbers are what I expected they would be. They are turning to outside help first and less likely to turn to someone in the congregation. Only 14% would first turn to one of their elders in this situation.

How frequently are they seeking support (listed in order of frequency)?

  • Monthly – 39%
  • Less than 1 per year – 23%
  • Semi-annually (between monthly and annual) – 18%
  • Weekly – 15%
  • Never – 5%
  • Annually 1%

How satisfied are they with their own relationship with God?

  • Very satisfied = 11%
  • Satisfied = 65%
  • Neutral = 13%
  • Unsatisfied = 11%
  • Very unsatisfied = 0%

How hopeful are they about the future?

  • Very hopeful = 38%
  • Hopeful = 51% (89% hopeful or better!)
  • Neutral = 9%
  • Unhopeful = 2%

Let’s look a bit more deeply at the numbers to find out more about what is going on. If we look at two distinct groups – those who have someone to turn to (85%) and those who report they don’t (15%), what differences do we find between those two groups (via ANOVA)? Those who don’t have someone to confess to

  • feel less balanced in ministry than those who do
  • Spend less time in study/prep for lessons than those who do
  • report lower satisfaction in their relationship with God than those who do
  • Feel less hopeful about the future

It should alarm us that 15% of our ministers say they have no one to turn to for support. Of those who do have someone only half are doing so a few times a year or better.

What does satisfaction in their relationship with God correlate with?

  • Stress (the better the relationship with God the lower the stress)
  • Time in personal study (the more time in personal study, the better reported relationship with God)
  • Balancing responsibilities
  • Frequency of going to people for help – the more satisfied you are with your relationship with God the more frequently you turn to others for help. Remember, any of these can be stated in reverse order as this this a relationship, not cause and effect – the more frequently they turn to someone for help the higher satisfaction they report in their relationship with God. Spiritually healthy people are willing to get help when they need it.

I know this is a lot to consider. I am going to do at least one more post pulling from the first three to talk about what all of this means and what we can do to help our ministers be healthier and what ministers can adjust in their lives and ministries for better and healthier outcomes.