9 Things You Should Know About Pastors

Tommorrow is the last day of Clergy Appreciation Month, an annual observance to honor pastors and others who “labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). In recognition of their contribution, here are nine things you should know about pastors in America.

1. The observance of a Pastor Appreciation Day (the second Sunday in October) began in 1992 when Jerry Frear Jr., founder of Under His Wing Ministries decided that “if secretaries could have their own holiday, so could clergy members.” He began lobbying state legislatures and now seeks a presidential proclamation. The name of the unofficial observance was later to changed to Clergy Appreciation Day and expanded to include all of October as Clergy Appreciation Month.

2. There are no reliable figures on the number of clergy in America. In 2012 the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reported that there were 600,000 clergy serving in various denominations in the U.S. But that figure included retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries and did not include independent churches that are not connected with a denomination. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an even more peculiar estimate, claiming that only 46,510 Americans are employed as clergy.

3. Many full-time pastors receive some mix of compensation that includes a base salary, housing allowance, health insurance, and retirement. A survey of senior pastors (i.e., the lead pastor in a church with multiple paid pastoral positions) found that the compensation tends to vary based on a number of factors, including church income, region, weekly attendance, years employed, etc. The national average for full-time senior pastor compensation in 2013 was $88,814, but drops to $79,520 when solo pastors (i.e., the sole minister in a church) were included.

4. Relatively few pastors give up on ministry. A survey of pastors of evangelical and historically black churches found an estimated 13 percent of senior pastors in 2005 had left the pastorate ten years later for reasons other than death or retirement. Two percent shifted to non-ministry jobs, and 5 percent stayed in ministry but switched to non-pastoral roles. Combined, those two groups account for known losses of less than 1 percent a year.

5. For senior pastors who have left their church, the main reason is change in calling (37 percent). Conflict in the church is the second most common reason at 26 percent. Other reasons pastors have left the pastorate include family issues (17 percent), moral or ethical issues (13 percent), poor fit (13 percent), burnout (10 percent), personal finances (8 percent), and illness (5 percent). Lack of preparation for the job was cited in 3 percent of cases.

6. Many pastors are stressed about money and the demands of ministry. A survey found that 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming, 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security, 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle, and 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

7. A survey of Protestant pastors found that nearly 1 in 4 pastors (23 percent) have personally struggled with a mental illness such as depression, while 12 percent say they’ve received a diagnosis for a mental health condition.

8. Protestant pastors reported working between 42 and 63 hours per week, according to a survey of what clergy do during the week. Of all clergy surveyed, a third of their time (33 percent) is spent preparing for preaching and worship, 19 percent on providing pastoral care, 15 percent administering congregation's work and attending meetings, 13 percent teaching and training people for ministry, and 6 percent in denominational and community affairs. An additional 7 hours is spent on prayer and meditation and 4 hours on reading other than for sermon preparation.

9. Only 37 percent of Americans surveyed think the clergy make a large contribution to society. Regular churchgoers tend to be more positive about ministers, priests and other clergy members. But even among adults who say they attend religious services at least once a week, only about half (52 percent) rate clergy in general as contributing “a lot” to society, while 29 percent say the clergy make “some” contribution, and 11 percent say the clergy contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all.”

Other articles in this series:

Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Margaret Sanger • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Orphans • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues

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