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Survey: Pastors focus on others when asked about their greatest needs

Although the past two years have been hard on most people, pastors may carry the greatest burden as they care for their congregations.

Lifeway Research recently asked 1,000 pastors about their most pressing needs. Seventy-seven percent said a major issue is developing leaders and volunteers, followed by creating connections with unchurched people. Number three is apathy and lack of commitment. Other common needs include the building of friendships and fellowship with other Christians, consistent Bible reading and repenting of personal sin.

The study, as Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell said, shows no shortage of “staggering” issues pastors face today.

“All seven spiritual needs asked about on the survey are a current concern for most pastors, as well as practical, mental, self-care, skill development and needs around ministry difficulties,” he said. “Clearly, pastors are not looking for shortcuts and are taking their roles as spiritual leaders in their church seriously.”

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Another element worth noting is the difficulty of being a pastor, especially today. Past research has shown the position can be lonely, stressful and, at moments, harrowing. As McConnell said in his analysis, the data shows that preachers tend to place ministry needs above personal needs.

“When asked to prioritize their own greatest need, pastors tend to put the needs of their church’s ministry ahead of personal needs,” McConnell said. “Personally making disciples, developing leaders, connecting with those outside the church and mobilizing the people in their church are the most common ‘greatest needs’ and are among the most common needs pastors want to make a priority.”

Of the 44 needs identified by pastors and included in the study, 17 were selected by a majority as an issue they need to address.

  • Developing leaders and volunteers: 77%
  • Fostering connections with unchurched people: 76%
  • People’s apathy or lack of commitment: 75%
  • Consistency in personal prayer: 72%
  • Friendships and fellowship with others: 69%
  • Training current leaders and volunteers: 68%
  • Consistency of Bible reading not related to sermon or teaching preparation: 68%
  • Trusting God: 66%
  • Relationships with other pastors: 64%
  • Consistency in taking a Sabbath: 64%
  • Stress: 63%
  • Personal disciple making: 63%
  • Confessing and repenting from personal sin: 61%
  • Consistency exercising: 59%
  • Avoiding overcommitment and over-work: 55%
  • Challenging people where they lack obedience: 55%
  • Time management: 51%

When asked to narrow down their list to the single greatest need requiring their attention, pastors’ responses varied. At least one pastor surveyed picked each of the 44 possible needs, while 23 needs garnered at least 2% of pastors. Eight needs were chosen by more than 3% of pastors, and one reached double digits.

  • People’s apathy or lack of commitment: 10%
  • Personal disciple making: 9%
  • Fostering connections with unchurched people: 8%
  • Developing leaders and volunteers: 7%
  • Establishing a compelling vision: 5%
  • Technology: 4%
  • Consistency in personal prayer: 4%

These priorities are noble and appropriate, although the reality might also be a call to Christians to ensure they are offering support, including on a personal level, to their pastors. Preachers themselves (75 percent) said they are interested in getting assistance on issues they face from fellow pastors, yet another noteworthy finding.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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