The Barna Group took a look at job satisfaction in the pulpit and found only about half of senior pastors (52%) say they are "very satisfied" in the calling – "an eye-popping" 20-point drop since 2015, notes the research group. In the same survey, just 35% of pastors under 45 responded they are satisfied with being a pastor.
In an interview with American Family News, Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist-Dallas suggests that fallout from the pandemic certainly has played a role in the drop – but cites at least two other reasons.
"Maybe they weren't called to begin with," he begins. "And I think there's a third reason: politically, many pastors are being asked to take sides on issues they'd rather not take sides on."
As for those who aren't confident of their calling, he offers this blunt advice: "If you're questioning whether you were called, you're probably not called." Indeed, two-thirds of pastors (66%) in 2015 felt more confident about their calling compared to when they first entered ministry. In 2022, that number plummeted to 35%, according to Barna,
As for the impact of the COVID pandemic, Jeffress contends the mandates about singing, masking, and even meeting at all took a toll. "It's not that they lost church members, but church members are attending less frequently," the Southern Baptist pastor adds. "And I think people found other things to occupy their time."
And when it comes to pastors navigating the political minefield, Jeffress has survived better than most. His key to success, he shares, is that while pastors "have no business" getting involved in partisan politics, "they do have a duty to speak out on biblical issues."
The bottom line, he explains, is that disaffected pastors need to take time for themselves and get some tangible support. "Find a way to encourage yourself in the Lord," Jeffress advises. "And also, make sure you've got a group of people praying for you."
The latest data in the Barna survey resulted from 585 online interviews with Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. in early to mid-September 2022. The 2015 survey data comprised 901 online and phone interviews.