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What’s Really Going On With Pastors … & Culture?

 

When it comes to pastors there’s a lot of “fake news” floating around. The good news is that many pastors are doing quite well. That’s the big take-away I gleaned from a four hour on-line conference held January 26, 2017 at Pepperdine University.

Believe it or not, pastors are happier and healthier than the general population and highly fulfilled in their work. Here are a few insights from David Kinnaman and The Barna Group’s latest report (The State of Pastors, available at barna.com ) as well as a variety of speakers assembled at Pepperdine to address culture shifts.

Our culture is mostly indifferent to pastors and considers them to have little influence.

The average  age of pastors is increasing.  Ten years ago the average age of pastors was 44. Now it is 54, and 17% of pastors are 65 and older, while only 15% are 40 and younger.

Pastoral Health: 

  • Only 11% of pastors are at high risk for burnout; 70% report excellent relationships with their spouse; 60% report excellent relationships with their children.
  • Friendships: 66% are happy with their their friendships (though older pastors are more likely to be happier than younger pastors with young children.) However, 50% feel lonely at times, compared with 40% of the general population.
  • Pastor’s need to track the activities and people that are energy enhancing for them, versus the activities and people that are energy depleting.
  • There are two levels of pastor care: preventive and crisis. All pastors need the former, some the latter.
  • 46% of pastors have suffered from “depression” – though 90% are satisfied with the quality of their life compared with 60% of the general population.
  • Pastors are more likely to feel inadequate in their role and need to realize that “success is a process not an event.”
  • “The greatest point of leverage in ministry is to be a healthier you … a healthier self!” Mike Cope.

Four major shifts in the history of Christianity:

  • The resurrection of Jesus
  • The conversion of King Constantine
  • The invention of the printing press
  • The emergence of the internet

Four myths of reaching Millennials

  • They don’t all prefer the same style of worship (though most prefer “modern”)
  • They don’t prefer a certain brand or denomination
  • They’re not looking for quality facilities
  • They aren’t all seeking a hip leader in a hip community

Millennials consider “warm” to be the new cool! They are drawn to churches that feel like “family.”

The new moral code: while 80% are concerned about the moral decline of the nation, 75% of millennials believe that whatever seems right to the individual is the only truth they can know.

The new definition of generosity: for millennials it’s not first about giving money, but more about loving others. They see themselves as generous and are drawn to those efforts that provide an emotional connection.

We live in a confusing time. In an interview with General Stanley McCrystal, author of Teams of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, he distinguished “complicated” from “complexity.” In the old “complicated” era, it was a more linear and predictable time of clear “cause and effect.” In this new era of “complexity” we are facing multiple rapid changes, and therefore frequently dealing with unanticipated  results. General McCrystal believes this requires not only team leadership but “teams of teams” functioning with freedom but in constant communication.

Resilience is at the heart of being an effective leader:

  • Being a resilient person
  • Building a resilient team
  • Forming a resilient counter-cultural community

Here’s the bottom line: things are neither as good as they sometimes seem nor as bad. Pastors are called both to be disciples and to make disciples. As Eugene Peterson has said, that requires “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

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