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New Study on Clergy Burnout

The time crunch is the greatest stressor for American clergy, according to a new study conducted by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

“Seventy-four percent of pastors responding to our survey reported that the greatest stress they experience relates to having ‘too many demands on their time,'” wrote Michael Jinkins, associate professor of pastoral theology at APTS. “This was by far the most significant stressor in pastors’ lives.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Jinkins found in his focus group that pastors “felt incompetent in determining priorities among competing values and ideals that guide their ministries, and that they were unable to distinguish between goal setting with reference to their congregational ministries and goal setting in their own professional and personal lives.”
 
Writing in the May/June issue of Alban Institute’s publication, Congregations, Jinkins noted that the surveyed ministers found the comparison of a pastor to a dog at a whistlers’ convention was a “grim joke.”
 
APTS surveyed 272 of the seminary’s alumni and received a 59 percent response. Respondents included Presbyterians, Methodists, Disciples of Christ and Baptists.
 
“Virtually none of the pastors said that the headline-grabbing conflicts, like the battles over gay and lesbian ordination that plague many denominations, cause them too much personal distress,” Jinkins reported. “[G]enerally speaking, the pastors do not ‘live inside’ these conflicts on a day-to-day basis.”
 
Instead, pastors were worn down by back-biting, gossip, apathy, passive-aggressive digs and other such behaviors.
 
“Pastors consistently saw Bible study and prayer as crucial resources for personal and professional wholeness and effectiveness,” Jinkins reported.
 
Few pastors were involved in “regular discipleships of Bible study and prayer,” wrote Jinkins, co-author of The Character of Leadership.
 
Sixty-two percent of respondents said they did not “have disciplined or scheduled times for study.”
 
Jinkins found that few pastors have a mentor or spiritual guide. “Only 41 percent have mentors at all,” he wrote.

 
To read more about the study, go to www.alban.org/ClergyBurnout.asp.

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