Pastors see their families as fairly healthy, though they believe that their job means they do not spend enough time with them and that there are unreasonable expectations connected with being the spouse or child of a minister, a new study indicates.
Pastors see their families as fairly healthy, though
they believe that their job means they do not spend enough time with
them and that there are unreasonable expectations connected with being
the spouse or child of a minister, a new study indicates.
The national study of 870 senior pastors showed
eight out of 10 pastors currently are on their first marriage, while
another 12 percent are divorced and remarried. Ninety-three percent
have children, including 43 percent who have adolescents and 50 percent
who have only children 18 or older. Fourteen percent are carrying on a
family tradition – being the child of a minister.
Conducted by Ellison Research of Phoenix, the study
is published in the July/August issue of Facts & Trends magazine, a
publication of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
The survey revealed that 93 percent of all pastors
believe there is extra pressure being married to a minister (including
54 percent who strongly believe this); 91 percent feel there is extra
pressure being the child of a minister (including 46 percent who
strongly hold this belief); and 88 percent believe churchgoers often
expect pastors’ families to be “better than” other people’s families.
In all three cases, Southern Baptist ministers are particularly likely
to perceive extra pressure on their families.
Six out of 10 ministers say their role as a pastor
leaves them insufficient time for their families. Only 18 percent say
the amount of time they get to spend with their spouse is at extremely
healthy levels, while 10 percent said the same about the time they get
to spend with their children.
Even so, when asked to rate the health of their
relationship with their spouse on a scale of one to five, 47 percent of
pastors give it the highest possible rating (a five), while another 39
percent rate it at a four. Similarly, 44 percent of ministers rate the
health of their relationship with their children at a five, and another
42 rate it at a four.
Overall, 26 percent of pastors rate the health of
their family unit at a five and another 54 percent give it a four
rating. Ministers who have been divorced report a less healthy
relationship with their children and rate the health of their family
unit lower than do other pastors.
Although pastors see the health of their own
families in a positive light, they often perceive problems with
families of other clergy members. Just 3 percent say pastors’ families
in general in their denomination are extremely healthy, while another
26 percent rate them as a four.
In fact, the average minister says 23 percent of the
other Protestant ministers they know are having significant problems
with their spouse or marriage and 27 percent are having significant
problems with their children.
Still, 61 percent of ministers strongly agree that
if there were a crisis in their family, they would receive the
necessary support from their church. Another 33 percent feel only
somewhat confident they would get support, while 6 percent said they
feel no confidence in that aspect.
Among other findings in the survey:
• Only 3 percent of senior pastors have never been
married. Among the 14 percent who have been divorced, 12 percent have
remarried, while 2 percent remain unmarried. Three percent have been
widowed, with 2 percent having remarried and 1 percent remaining
• Almost nine out of 10 evangelical ministers are on
their first marriage (88 percent), with 3 percent widowed, 8 percent
divorced and only 1 percent never married. There is more divorce among
mainline Protestant ministers, as 69 percent are on their first
marriage, 7 percent never have been married, 1 percent have been
widowed and 23 percent have gone through a divorce. (These figures
would not include those who left the ministry after a divorce or death
of a spouse.)
• Evangelical ministers are more likely than
mainline ministers to describe their relationship with their spouse as
extremely healthy (49 percent to 37 percent).
• Evangelicals also are more likely than mainline
ministers to rate their relationships with their children as extremely
healthy (46 percent to 36 percent).
Ellison Research President Ron Sellers said it would
be unwise to assume the small number of pastors reporting unhealthy
family situations means all is well among clergy. “Even though only 5
percent of pastors report a very unhealthy relationship with their
spouse, that means there are over 10,000 individual pastors with
serious marital problems right now,” Sellers commented.
“In fact, the study projects that around 20,000
senior pastors nationwide – to say nothing of associate ministers or
other staff in Protestant churches, nor of those who have left the
ministry because of these issues – recognize that they have serious
family problems right now.” (BP)
(The nationwide study of senior pastors has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points)