We see pastors smiling with their elegant tuxedos and black or brown leather shoes every Sunday Service in front of the pulpit. It seems that this strong man of God does not have any struggles in life at all.
Though they are appointed, anointed, and called by God, pastors are still humans and are not excused from dealing with the struggles in life. For example, not all people know that behind the pulpit, this pastor has unpaid, overdue bills that he must settle.
Most of them today feel exhausted, overcommitted, embattled, and under-resourced. Pastors are so focused on helping and caring for others that they forget to care for themselves.
According to the Subsplash website, 42% of pastors considered quitting the ministry last year. Most suffered from burnout and tiresome spiritual symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, change of sleeping cycles, spiritual doubt, and emotional withdrawal from the community and family.
On the other hand, when pastors are in healthy condition, the church, church workers, and their families are better set up to thrive. But, when stressed, their ministry is limited, and all the people around them suffer.
Common Struggles of Pastors Behind Pulpit
Most pastors do not like to talk about their struggles in front of the pulpit because they are not the focus of the message. They need to teach how God works and loves His people using different people so it would not be about them but still about God.
To help our pastors, we need to know their everyday struggles, and we would cover some of the common challenges they face behind the pulpit.
Pastors want people to rely on them when searching for answers, as serving as the voice of God could be challenging. However, they could struggle also in their spiritual life.
Pastor Ed Stetzer noted on Outreach Magazine that as a pastor, he experiences spiritual challenges too. Sometimes, he is not faithful to God’s word and has difficulty following his prayer life.
In addition, The National Association for Christian Recovery emphasized that it can be hard to maintain a consistent, dynamic, progressive connection with God, especially for pastors and church leaders. Things they do for God could be so familiar that they no longer look forward to them excitedly.
When pastors struggle with their spiritual wellness, more often than not, the whole congregation would also be affected, and their spiritual health could also be at stake.
I think if average workers could feel burnout by their everyday routine at work, so as pastors. Imagine doing the same daily way: wake up, pray, preach, care for people, and repeat.
The enemy could use this mundane lifestyle to attack their spiritual growth since they are too busy caring for others’ spiritual health without checking their own. Unconsciously, if they struggled with their spirituality, everything follows. It would be difficult for them to be happy serving God and His people.
Financial, Economic Realities
With the impact of economic downturns, people are suffering from inflation and recessions.
It also affects the church since people have lesser to give to their church.
With this, pastors have to make difficult decisions of cutting budgets such as salaries and lessening church spending.
Moreover, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed research that many pastors struggle financially.
A new study stated that most evangelical pastors serve in small churches and often suffer from severe personal financial challenges.
Other findings found that 33% of pastors have less than $10,000 in savings for retirement funds. Also, they emphasized that 76% of pastors left the ministry because of financial concerns.
Besides, nearly 60% of pastors do not have health insurance or retirement funds from their church.
Pastors with families to feed and children to raise have difficulty choosing their calling if they are not well compensated. Often they get distracted and discouraged along their serving journey because they still want to provide for their families.
In Jeremiah 3:15, God told His people that He would give them shepherds (pastors) after His own heart, who would lead them with knowledge and understanding. Although being a pastor entails having the highest calling of shepherding God’s flocks, it also comes with tremendous responsibility.
Sometimes knowing that you are God’s servant could cause them to be confused about who they are.
Pastor Stetzer explained that pastors typically have three identities they need to balance. They have their religious, cultural, and their own identity.
He emphasized that there is a significant difference between Jesus and pastors. However, because of their religious identity, people see them as spiritual perfection, which is intimidating for them to live up to.
In addition, he said that pastors are living in a fishbowl that shows the good, bad, and ugly sides. Pastor Stetzer noted that their cultural identity is tied to their religious identity.
Some people in the church know their real identity, and if pastors had kids, they are also observing.
Pastors must be reminded that they cannot have a closer personal connection with everyone in the church.
In the Outreach Magazine, Pastor Stetzer emphasized that as pastors, they want to shepherd church people to the level they can.
If pastors had a bigger church, they would mainly shepherd them through teaching on Sunday services or other creative ways, so they could use their gifts and passions. However, they must set boundaries and know when to agree or disagree.
Most pastors feel they would have a penalty for disagreeing with anything. Instead, they simply only need to agree to some things.
Setting limitations means learning to say no. It also defines having healthy relationships. Pastors do not need to have a deep and abiding connection to everyone.
Isolation, Loneliness Struggle
Pastors are not exempted from feeling alone and isolated and could tend to feel this way because of not achieving clerical tasks, lack of church affirmation, and conflict with church members.
Also, generally, pastors do not have many friends or peer connections for support.
Based on a study from Lifeway Research, 23% of pastors noted that they had suffered from psychological problems, while 12% of them stated that they were diagnosed with mental illness.
It is difficult for pastors to make friends and open up with people in the church because sometimes they fear criticism or judgment. For this reason, they choose to isolate themselves and keep their struggles on their own.
With the issue of church attendance at its lowest rank in American history, many pastors whose churches surpassed the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that their physical attendance had not bounced back to pre-pandemic numbers after they reopened the church.
Meanwhile, Outreach Magazine emphasized that accountability means different things to people. Pastors and church leaders are not accountable to everybody, the internet, or Twitter.
In an unhealthy world, they are responsible to everyone, so they feel pressured. Some pastors could feel it is their fault whenever church attendance decreases.
Support for Pastors
Becoming a pastor can be considered a priceless privilege from God, but it is surely not easy.
As it was written in 1 Corinthians 15:58, you must stand firm and let nothing move you.
It added, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”