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:
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.
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
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.
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%
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)
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.
How healthy are our ministers? We asked them a variety of questions to determine various aspects of their health. This post reports the findings on their physical and mental health of our ministers and how this relates to and impacts other areas of their overall health (relational, spiritual, ministerial, etc).
How long has it been since you have seen a doctor?
Average time = 25 months
Max = 12 years
27% reported being over 12 months since last visit
When asked about their satisfaction with their physical health we found just over one third were satisfied to very satisfied, while the remaining 58% were neutral to very unsatisfied. Here is the breakdown on satisfaction with overall physical health:
Very satisfied – 6%
Satisfied – 30%
Neutral – 21%
Unsatisfied – 37%
Very unsatisfied – 7%
Diet had nearly identical results (which also correlated very highly) with physical health.
Very satisfied – 5%
Satisfied – 28%
Neutral – 25%
Unsatisfied – 37%
Very unsatisfied – 3%
There were statistically significant correlations between health and diet satisfaction as well as satisfaction with health and stress levels (the more stress, the less satisfaction with physical health).
How much exercise do our ministers report getting per month?
47% reported 10 hours or less per month.
10% reported never exercising
How much sleep are our ministers getting? They are averaging just under 7 hours of sleep per night. The national average hovers just below 8 hours. Ministers rated the quality of their sleep at 71.92 on average on a 100 point scale.
There is a variable that is related to how much sleep ministers are getting as well as the quality of their sleep that I am going to spend quite a bit more time on later in the results and that is whether or not ministers have considered leaving ministry. Just to give you an idea, there are different times of variable that are required to run different statistics. One of the most helpful statistics is called “Analysis of Variance” (ANOVA). It takes two distinct groups, in this case those who have considered leaving ministry and those who have not (the independent and dichotomous variable), and compares differences in their means/averages. If the means are consistently different, then the ANOVA is able to determine that those two groups truly differ on a given variable (called the dependent variable) with a certain level of confidence (say, 95% confident that the differences are not just random variations in the data).
So here are the numbers:
ANOVA showed a statistical difference between those who have considered leaving ministry and those who have not in the number of hours of sleep they report (for those who know stats, F= 5.073, significance = .026) and quality of sleep (F = 8.152, sig = .005).
Here is what that means. Those who have considered leaving ministry report getting less sleep and worse quality of sleep at night than those who have never considered leaving ministry.
The groups (those who have considered and those who have not considered leaving ministry) vary in a statistically significant way (means probably not just randomly occurring in the data) on these two variable.
This doesn’t mean that getting more sleep will make you less likely to consider leaving ministry but it does give us information to ask why it is that these two groups differ in the ways that they do. I am going to dig into this quite a bit further in the posts that follow.
We asked a number of questions about participant’s mental health, especially as it pertains to ministry’s impact on mental health.
The good news is, 82% reported being Satisfied or Very Satisfied about the current state of their mental health.
34% reported having mental health issues they believed were a result of ministry.
52% have experienced significant levels of anxiety as a result of ministry with 31% of those who have reported experiencing significant, ministry related anxiety being within the last month. 73% of those who have experienced this report it being within the last year. The average time since last anxiety among those who endorsed experiencing ministry-related anxiety was 30 months ago.
34% reported significant levels of depression they believed were ministry related with 21% of those being in the last month and 52% in the last year.
Anxiety and depression were highly correlated (Pierson = .807, significance = .000)
Satisfaction with mental health correlated negatively with time since last ministry related anxiety (so the better satisfied with your mental health, the longer since the last anxiety – P = -.344, sig = .007)
Mental health satisfaction correlated with marital satisfaction (p = .376, sig = .000)
We gave participants a sliding stress scale from 0 to 100. The average was 46.
Stress correlated with a number of things:
Correlated with health satisfaction (the higher the stress the less satisfied with physical health)
Correlated with hours spent per week in ministry (higher stress, higher hours)
Correlated with relationship with elders (higher stress, more negative elder relationships)
Correlated with balance of ministry responsibilities (higher stress, less balanced)
Correlated with satisfaction with one’s relationship with God (higher stress, less satisfied)
We find almost a bell curve distribution on satisfaction with physical health and diet with most responses around the neutral mark and very few who were either very satisfied or very unsatisfied. Both measures leaned negative. I would be curious to see how this compares to a similar question being asked of a broader, more general population of people in general (especially middle aged men, as that is mostly who was in the study). We also find ministers getting less sleep than average and while not reporting high levels of stress on average, still showing us that stress is related to a number of factors (via correlation) that we should pay attention to -particularly that stress and satisfaction with health, elders, balance and even relationship with God are significant. This does not necessarily mean that decreasing stress will automatically fix any of these things but it does show there is a relationship.
We see that ministers report overall being pretty positive on their mental health until you get more specific. Once you get more specific, we have some real issues to come to grips with. When over half of ministers report significant anxiety as a direct result of ministry, that is a real issue that must be addressed. When one third of those report its incidence within the last month and the vast majority within the last year, that is troublesome. Our ministers need support. They need to be encouraged to take care of their mental health, see a counselor when needed, and to not attach any stigma to them for being human.
Remember, what they are reporting is not anxiety and depression in general but specifically from ministry. This is one area where our findings diverged from Barna’s but for a reason that makes sense. Barna’s recent State of the Pastor’s study found a higher incidence of anxiety and depression but they were asking in general, not as it only pertains to ministry. It would make sense that asking the question generally would yield a higher incidence than asking about anxiety and depression as a direct result of ministry.
These findings remind us that ministers are whole people with a whole range of interconnected health issues. They remind us of the complexities of what it means to be human and how various aspects of our health interlock and interrelate with one another. If we are going to help ministers be healthier, then we need to focus on the whole person. This will become more and more evident as we share more results.
Over the last few years the discussions I have had with other ministers has led me to believe that we are in a period of time that is vitally important to the future of the church. The thing that has led me to believe that is the amount of ministers I talk with who are tired. They are approaching burn out. They need some support but don’t always have an outlet to find the help they need.
I decided to try to find out more about the health of ministers in Churches of Christ. This post is the first in a series of posts reporting the findings. Hopefully these results will help us figure out better self-care as ministers and help elderships develop practices and relationships with their ministers that help them become healthier.
I assessed five areas of health: physical, mental, relational, spiritual, and ministerial/professional. We understand that these areas are not isolated but that they all interact with each other as we view our lives, bodies, minds, souls, etc more holistically.
This post will give the demographics of those who participated in the survey. Future posts will dive into each of the five areas.
119 people took the survey.
Age: Average was 43 years old
Marriage and family
95% have children
79% have children currently in their home
80% Preaching minister
11% Youth minister
6% Associate minister
2% Family minister
2% Childrens’ minister
Their average years in ministry was 18.3
The average number of congregations they have served in was 3.
The number of years they have served their current congregation had an average of 7.3 years.
The Barna group has been in partnership with Pepperdine University to assess the health of ministers in a report titled “The State of Pastors.” The study reaches beyond Churches of Christ but Pepperdine has partnered with Barna group to see how ministers in Churches of Christ compare with ministers in other denominations in terms of their health and well being. I encourage you to look into their findings as well. I was also encouraged to find that our study and their study had similar findings in the areas our work overlapped including the demographics of our samples.
In conclusion, I look forward to sharing the findings of this study over the course of the next week. It will be both eye-opening and helpful and I believe it compliments the work Barna has done very well.
You can get a summary of the findings in these two videos or read below:
It is vitally important for us as a movement to understand what is happening in our fellowship. We live in a time where information travels quickly and sometimes, it seems, misinformation and speculation, travel even more quickly! Reality may not be as engaging as speculation but it is more helpful and beneficial to the body of Christ to speak from what information we do have rather than guess.
This report is intended to be a snapshot in time. It is an attempt to allow people to be well informed on the facts of what is actually happening in Churches of Christ when it comes to changes in women’s roles. This is also the first of several studies we are going to do at Wineskins as we continue to address important topics and help have a conversation about what is going on in Churches of Christ.
There were a few reasons I decided to dive into this topic including its relevance to our fellowship today and the lack of hard data that has resulted in people speculating and treating that speculation as fact. I don’t know about you but I like to speak from knowledge rather than from rumor and assumption.
So I set out to get some data on what Churches of Christ are actually doing in regard to women’s roles in order to take a snapshot in the history of Churches of Christ at this moment in time. This is not the end all, be all study on this issue. As the study progressed more and more issues of interest arose that could be tackled in a future study. As with any study, this has its limitations and should not made to say something it doesn’t. My goal in this was to be an observer, recorder and a reporter more than anything else. So in what follows I am going to give you the information I found out in the process as objectively as I can, trying to help you understand what you are reading along the way. Stats can be confusing and the last thing I want to be on this is confusing. If you have any questions, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to bring whatever clarity I can. I have committed to these respondents to not give out any congregation or respondent’s individual information so please do not ask for that.
What this report is not intended to be:
It is not prescriptive. This is not a manual on instituting change. It is descriptive, describing what is happening so we can be informed.
It is not theological. You will not find any scripture in this report.
The purpose is not to take a particular position on the issue itself.
I presented this information in two parts at the Pepperdine Lectures a few weeks ago and you can listen to those to get some of this information on itunes University (See #’s 13 & 42 at this link after you listen to N.T. Wright, of course). There were requests for this to be put in some sort of written form because it is a lot to digest in a lecture/discussion setting. So I hope that this information is presented in a helpful way and that it is as easily understood as possible. Statistics can be confusing enough as it is!
Survey data was collected via Survey monkey and results were analyzed via SPSS. Comments have been turned off because this information is meant to be a resource, not a place for discussion on this issue.
First, who are we looking at here? This survey was not a general study of a random sample of Churches of Christ. This was a study of congregations that have actually implemented some level of change to be more inclusive of women in the life of the congregation. So the numbers you see below are not representative of any given Church of Christ or where we are as a movement as a whole at this point in time. This is representative of churches that are making changes in this area.
In order to take the survey respondents had to meet 3 criteria: 1) be responding regarding a congregation that has made changes, 2) still be in that congregation and 3) had to be a Church of Christ.
It is very important that you understand the sample. Again, this data cannot be generalized to all Churches of Christ.
87 respondents were scaled down to 78 for a variety of reasons. A few weren’t churches of Christ. A few congregations had such a large representation they would skew the results so they were scaled down by randomly selecting those who would remain from those congregations.
47 congregations were represented from 17 states and Canada at an average age of 60 years old. It is estimated that there are roughly 100 Churches of Christ that have made changes in this area. I imagine the number is a bit higher than that.
Respondent Gender: 74% male, 26% female
Role: 56% ministers (as defined by being paid, on staff), 27% elders and 17% members.
35% of all respondents were preaching ministers/senior ministers
Years ministering in the current congregation ranged from 1-38 years
Average current tenure = 10.7 years
Average age = 52 years old
Average tenure as an elder = 12.6 years
7% female elders
93% male elders
Personal Support: 95% of respondents were personally supportive of the changes. Of the 5% who were not (4 respondents) 3 were female and 1 was male. Remember, these are people in churches after the changes have been made on some level.
So you have a sample from congregations who have made changes in this area that are overwhelmingly supportive of the changes, mostly male and mostly ministers.
For what follows I want to make sure you understand what you are looking at. This information is all self-reported from minister, elders and ministers regarding their assessment of things. So things like level of congregational support is not assessed by gathering a large sample of members from within these churches (future study material for sure), rather these numbers represent the respondents’ perception of these things based on their knowledge and experience with the congregation since they were there through the changes. An interesting follow up study would be about members actual experience more so than what the elders and ministers believe happened (which is what this survey examined).
What sort of changes were made in these congregations? Listed in order of frequency:
Pass communion – 93%
Read scripture – 93%
Public prayer – 84%
Communion meditation – 77%
Lead worship – 69%
Preach – 50%
Elder – 16%
Of these 7 changes, the average number of changes made by the congregations was 4.82. the 2.18 left over was most often accounted for by not having female preachers or women preach in general or female elders.
14% of respondents reported being fully inclusive. 35% of respondents reported including women in every area except preaching and elder.
Do you anticipate future changes or has everything already been implemented? Let’s again, break this down by elders and ministers
38% – Everything already implemented
48% – Anticipate future change
10% – I don’t know
18% Everything implemented
70% – Anticipate future change
11% – I don’t know
Note the differences between thinking implementation is over vs that there is more to do between ministers and elders.
Communication & Implementation
These changes were implemented, on average, 10.24 years ago.
69% made the changes gradually, over time. The other 31% made them all at once (whatever level of change they decided to implement) There was no statistical difference in outcome based on how the changes were made (gradual vs all at once).
How long did it take to make the changes? Well that depends on who you ask.
Elders said 8.8 years on average
Ministers said 4.67 years on average
What I realized after getting that number was that this was not an apples to apples comparison because I had minister data for churches I didn’t have elders’ data for and elders’ data for churches I didn’t have minister data on. So I paired down the sample to elders and ministers in the same congregations (excluding churches that I didn’t have both an elder and minister for) and the numbers got more in line.
Elders = 5.25 years
Ministers = 4.67 years
You see that ministers still report a faster process than elders and that ministers foresee more changes ahead than elders as a whole.
Communication and decision making
84% did a study on some level
72% studied with the whole congregation
15% studied with a select group in the congregation
Average length of study was 8 months
Who was involved in making the decision?
Elders only – 27%
Elders and ministers – 46%
Elders, ministers and select members – 11%
Congregation as a whole – 13%
Who communicated the decision to the congregation?
Elder(s) – 57%
Elder(s) and minister – 20%
Minister – 15%
No communication – 8%
Method of communicating the changes
Written announcement/letter – 69%
Announcement – 75%
Sermon – 55%
Bible class – 55%
Duration of the process:
As stated above the average length of study was 8 months
Average time from first change to the last was 7.7 years.
Reported Goals of the changes
48% – listed faithfulness to scripture
34% – listed using gifts and talents
8% – be more outwardly focused
8% – more fully embody the image of God
3% – enrich our worship
How effective were the changes in meeting that goal? (again, remember this is self-report by those mostly in favor of the changes) – 4.2 on average on a 5 point Likert scale (1 = Completely ineffective & 5 = Completely effective)
Attitude of the congregation at announcement vs today
What was the general attitude of the congregation toward these changes when they were announced vs today? (asked in 2 questions and then calculated the difference)
You can see the movement toward respondents rating congregational attitude as higher today than at announcement.
Support by age group
Remember, this is as reported by those who took the survey. A next step would be to gather responses from several thousand church members to gauge their actual level of support rather than “perceived support” from their ministers and elders. That is another study for another day.
Keep in mind 3 is neutral. Also keep in mind these are churches that made the changes, not the overall attitude of any given Church of Christ. I want to keep reminding you to remember the sample. That is key to understanding the data you are looking at – self-report by people in Churches of Christ who have made changes in this area.
What sort of impact did this have on the congregation? In retrospect, I wish I had tried to gauge more than the typical metrics…again, another study for another day. In this study, I collected data on attendance and giving changes at multiple points in the process (pre-announcement, announcement, and actual implementation of change). The way this data was collected and calculated was, respondents were asked for attendance and contribution figures at these three points in the process. Changes were calculated from that information rather than directly asked for. In other words the questions were worded in how many were in attendance or what the contribution was at various points in the process rather asking them for the change. The change was then calculated based on the numbers they provided.
Changes in attendance at announcement
4% – gained members
42% – no change
54% – lost members
Average loss at announcement = 7.85%
That 7.85% loss was an average of all churches. Remember, some didn’t lose anyone and others gained. If you select the respondents who reported loss at announcement the loses are higher – 15.45% loss at announcement.
Changes in attendance at implementation
15% – gained members
34% – no change
52% – lost members
Average across all churches (those that gained, no change and lost) you have a loss of 8.71%
Again, this is an average loss of all churches. Not all lost members. If you zoom in on congregations who lost members at implementation you find a higher number – 20%.
At announcement and implementation, the odds of holding steady (members gained + no change) are roughly 50/50 (46% & 49% respectively).
Correlations on attendance change at announcement
Attendance change at announcement correlated with…
How effective respondents rated the changes meeting their goals (-.399, .009 significance level). Negative correlation means as one goes up the other goes down. The more people they lost, the less effective they felt they met their goals.
How changes have been received by the congregation (congregational attitude at implementation) (-.324, .036 significance). The more people you lose, the worse the congregation received the changes. The more you gained, the better the congregation received the changes (again, as reported by mostly ministers and elders of the congregation…this is the perception, not an actual report by the members themselves). Congregational attitude is also positively correlated with years since the changes took place. The more years since the change the more positive the attitude and the less years since the change the less positive the attitude (.314, .014 significance).
Age of the congregation (.490, .002 significance). Older churches tended to lose more people and younger churches less.
Attendance changes and contribution changes were highly correlated – .790, .000 significance level) as would be expected.
Just as interesting as what is correlated is what is not correlated.
Length of study wasn’t correlated with attendance or contribution changes.
Length of time to make the changes was not correlated with reported congregational support
Change in contribution from before making the changes to today
43% – decrease in contribution
29% – stayed the same
28% – increase in contribution
Average change in contribution across all churches = 16% gain. Remember, the average on these churches was the last change was made 10 years ago.
Of congregations that lost contribution, the average loss was 24% from the start of the process to today.
Contribution per attendee increased after the changes. Which means attendance and contribution were related/correlated but contribution held up better than attendance. Those who remained on average gave more than before the changes were implemented. Contribution/attendee was $34.18 pre-announcement and $36.53 today. That is an increase of 6.88% in contribution/attendee.
This next stat fascinated me – attendance was better correlated with outcomes on congregational attitude and support than contribution was. In other words, losing people was a bigger deal than losing money.
Role of Scripture
To the best of your knowledge how central a role did scripture play in the decision?
90% – Majorly emphasized
When asked what their goal was in making the changes, the number 1 answer was “faithfulness to scripture” (48%) followed by gifts and talents (34%).
Role of scripture correlated with a few things:
How positively changes were received by the congregation (more scriptural emphasis = more positive) – .258, .026 significance
How effective people thought the changes were – .246, .040 significance
General attitude of the congregation as well as the attitude of every individual age group as listed above
Has your level of support changed since changes were implemented?
53% – More supportive
39% – Stayed the same
3% – Less supportive
Knowing what you know today, would you have done this if you had a “do over”?
90% – Yes
10% – No
How would you do things differently if you had to do it over again? (open ended question)
Nothing = 49%
Move faster = 26%
Move slower = 1%
More communication = 4%
Include more of the church = 6%
Has there been a change in volunteerism since the changes rolled out?
68% – Increased participation
28% – No change
4% – Decreased participation
Have you seen a change in the number of visitors?
51% – Increase
45% – No change
4% – Decrease
Have you seen a change in participation by the men?
15% – Increase participation by the men
79% – No change
6% – Decreased participation by the men
Respondent’s age didn’t correlate with any of the outcome variables.
Gender didn’t have a “main effect” in any of the ANOVA (analysis of variance) I ran on the data. This means that gender didn’t seem to skew or affect any of the data, rather men and women reported things very similarly.
The groups that did differ significantly on their responses were those who were personally supportive vs not supportive on the changes. Those who were not supportive tended to report worse congregational outcomes than those who were supportive of the changes. That could be said just as well in the reverse. Those who were supportive of the changes tended to rank outcomes more positively than those who were not (F = 43.059, significance = .000).
The last nugget dug out of this data is just an interesting side note. I ran an ANOVA on role in the congregation to see if preachers and elders report things differently and there was no “main affect” of role in the congregation on the data. That means we have statistical proof that there is no such thing as “preacher count”!