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Pastoral well-being

October 2015

Nearly one-third of pastors find their personal prayer life a disappointment, while half claim to have no close friend to whom they can be accountable, research has found.

Last summer, the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) surveyed pastors and wives across the family of FIEC churches.

The survey aimed to help pastors to reflect on their life and current ministry situation. It focused on several areas, such as spiritual formation, self-care, self-awareness, home life and church leadership.

There were also questions about financial concerns. Some 92 completed forms were returned, representing 35 per cent of the FIEC pastoral community; separately, 38 forms were returned from pastors’ wives.

According to a statement from the FIEC, at least five pastors reported that the survey was too painful to complete. Some 46 per cent described themselves in negative terms, such as depressed, struggling, disillusioned and lonely; but 62 per cent said they took the opportunity to reflect on their ministries regularly.

Meanwhile, 52 per cent of ministry wives questioned the demands placed on their husbands, with 59 per cent saying they were ‘actively involved’ in their husbands’ ministry.

Financial concerns

Financial worries were also a concern for many pastors. Although some 60 per cent said they felt adequately supported by their church, 45 per cent of these do not have any pension contributions from their church.

As an aside, it is a legal requirement on all employers, large and small, to provide auto-enrolled pensions for their employees. Failure to do so will see fines imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

There has been encouragement, however, with 63 per cent of pastors who have been in their post for three or more years citing growth in their churches despite feeling overworked on occasion.

Richard Underwood, FIEC pastoral ministries director, said, ‘A number of recurring themes emerge from the survey, notably relating to physical health, spiritual health, and how to clarify the relationship between pastors and congregations’

He also said it was important to ‘address the lack of training and preparation for wives for ministry’, as well as reaching leaders and their families ‘at their point of need’.

Mr Underwood pointed to the FIEC’s Pastors’ Network, which he said was ‘an ideal platform to address many of these issues’. The issues raised by the survey are to be worked out in greater detail in a separate document called The pastors’ network: The way forward