Hodges: Why pastors are hurting
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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In a Christian Post article, columnist Thom S. Rainer concludes, based on recent research, that "pastors are hurting."

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Protestant pastors across the country. More than 55 percent of them agreed that they are discouraged. No noticeable pattern of discouragement related to age or church size emerged. Coincidentally, the same number, 55 percent, also acknowledged experiencing intense loneliness at times. Younger pastors were more likely to be lonely than older ones, and the larger the church, the more likely the pastor was to suffer loneliness.

Seminary teaches pastors how to shepherd parishioners, counsel members, administrate and preach, but it seldom prepares students for the real challenges of ministry.

When entering a new ministry, almost all pastors experience a power struggle with a board of elders or other de facto leaders within the congregation. Ministers often run into resistance to change, and those not up to the challenge will be discouraged by the opposition.

A pastor's job is never done. Someone is always in need. Tragedy never occurs at a convenient time. This can strain a minister's marriage and family life. Add to that the pressure of overseeing a church on fluctuating budget.

As Rainer notes, many ministers mistakenly fall into the comparison trap — another congregation has a heftier budget, a bigger church, a larger membership — and become discouraged. The job's demands can lead to loneliness. A minister is expected to be a source of comfort, strength and inspiration for parishioners but rarely has anyone to turn to for support.

Many pastors have trouble developing close relationships. Some members place ministers on a pedestal and become shattered when they realize pastors are no different from them. Experienced pastor learn that the best solution is to foster relationships with other clergy.

While the pressures of pastoring can be overwhelming and painful, there is no greater joy than leading a congregation. A pastor is present at marriages, the dedication of children, baptisms and other intimate moments. The pulpit affords the opportunity to affect lives every week. Theologian Charles Spurgeon is often quoted as saying, "If God calls you to be a pastor, don't stoop to be a king."

Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at coreyjhodges@comcast.net.