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Pastors getting their groove back after 2 years of stress and anxiety, survey finds

SUWANEE, Ga. – After a couple of stress-filled years, the majority of America’s pastors are feeling better about their ministries.

That’s according to research from the Barna Group, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in the U.S.

In an article last week, the Barna Group said 90 percent of pastors surveyed said they felt just as confident or more confident in their calls to ministry compared to when they first started, a sure sign that the nation’s preachers are no longer feeling “discouraged, depleted and defeated by their day-to-day work.”

For a while, the day-to-day reality of U.S. pastors seemed quite grim,” Barna said in the article. “Recently, however, some signs of relief have begun to appear on the horizon.”

Four in 10 pastors had considered leaving the ministry in 2022. That number improved to 3 in 10 in 2023.

“Today’s pastors are finding their footing after a prolonged period of destabilization,” Barna said.

Chris Reynolds, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s lead strategist for pastor wellness, said having the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror has helped.

“COVID was traumatic,” he said. “It led to decision fatigue and every decision being questioned personally and corporately. Now that COVID is a very real part of our past, but not dominating our present, pastors and ministry leaders are recovering emotionally and physically.  This is leading to a renewed hope and energy. While challenging, the COVID era has reminded us of the faithfulness of God. There is the realization that if I survived the pandemic; I can survive the next thing as well.”

In Georgia, Reynolds said, pastors are enthused by a post-pandemic surge in baptisms as well as overall church growth.

“We are having far less conversations with pastors who are seeking an exit from their church or from the ministry in general,” he said.

The number of pastors who say they are “very satisfied: with their vocation” has grown to 59 percent, from 52 percent in 2022, a 7-point jump, Barna found.

“And 47 percent of pastors say they are “very satisfied” with their ministry at their current church, up from 38 percent in 2022, a significant increase from the last time Barna checked in,” the organization reported.

The Barna survey, done in partnership with World Vision, Brotherhood Mutual, RightNow Media and World Impact, also found a significant increase in the number of pastors who felt energized by their jobs.

“Clearly, challenges remain in these areas — and they are significant,” Barna wrote. “But the general boost in pastoral job satisfaction suggests that change is possible and downward trends are reversible.”

This article appeared in The Christian Index.