Do 1500 Pastors Leave Ministry Every Month?

There are quite a few statistics about the church that raise red flags around being a pastor, and I would imagine make people question whether or not to enter ministry. For example:

 

  1. 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend.

  2. 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

  3. 52% of pastors feel overworked and cannot meet their church's unrealistic expectations.

 

The most common statistic I hear is that 1,500 pastors leave ministry every month. The problem is, we can’t seem to find any research to back up these claims. So the question is, where do these stats come from and is it really true?

Most of the stats you see floating around the internet are said to be from The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Schaeffer Institute of Leadership Development.  

While these stats may have been presented through these sources at some point, many of them can’t be found today. The Fuller Institute has no mention of any of these statistics on their site (as far as we can find) and the Barna Group was interviewed by Ed Stetzer at Christianity Today.

David Kinnaman of Barna Group said, "None of these are ours," even though the pastor "doomsday stats" [his words] are "persistently quoted and persistently attributed to us."

The Schaeffer Institute of Leadership Development did have a few statistics from Into Thy Word around Pastor Statistics that was completed in 2016 stating that 90% feel honored to be a pastor! That’s not exactly in line with the “doomsday stats” that have been shared like wildfire throughout the church.

So why are these incorrect statistics so prevalent? I’m sure everyone who shares these statistics have their own reason, but I believe it’s simply because the (incorrect) data is so shocking. The response to this information is not to research the sources, but to say “can you believe this incredible information?!” and share it with your friends. However, this data is damaging to pastors, the church, and the reputation of the christian faith.

There are quite a few articles about pastors leaving their church and studies being done to have these statistics proven wrong. While there is no doubt that being a pastor is challenging, the vast majority of pastors have a positive outlook on their work and life. There is still work to be done to support pastors, and we should all be encouraging them in their efforts to serve the body of Christ.

 

Cameron Gibbons