How a Consumer Culture Threatens to Destroy Pastors

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Jen Hatmaker is a pastor’s wife, a writer, a mom, a public speaker, and an advocate for pastors.

Did you catch that last one? Hatmaker is deeply concerned about the well being of pastors. She writes specifically to pastors again and again in her books, articles, and on social media. Her message? Please, please take care of yourself.

A couple years back Hatmaker wrote an article in the Washington Post on how a consumer culture threatens to destroy pastors. In the article she pleads with pastors to stop trying to do it all. She also shares sobering stats on pastors’ work-life balance from a LifeWay Research poll:

  • 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security
  • 77 percent believe their marriage is unwell
  • 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day
  • 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands

In response to these statistics, Hatmaker raises the following questions:

"I wonder if the American church is setting itself up for failure? If church structure — which is geared toward meeting every need, developing everyone spiritually and organizing all inward and outward ministry — results in a 90 percent failure rate, perhaps we should reevaluate.

I wonder if a “Come to us and we will do it all, lead it all, organize it all, calendar it all, execute it all, innovate it all, care for it all and fund it all” framework is even biblical? It sets leaders and followers up for failure, creating a church-centric paradigm in which discipleship is staff-led and program-driven.

This slowly builds a consumer culture wherein spiritual responsibility is transferred from Christians to the pastors, a recipe for disaster."

Though a couple years old, I thought Hatmaker's article brought to light some critical issues and asked some important questions. 

Pastors, does this resonate with you? What needs to change? 

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Imagine if all pastors had their lives entirely together.  Would this be success.  Saying that if pastors have problems that this is a failure rate, points to the essence of the problem.  Because if all pastors were pathetic, and had nothing but problems, but yet the church was growing and people were worshipping God in greater and new ways, then it would not be failure.  God works through our weaknesses, through our trials and tribulations, which increase patience, perseverance, hope.   As scripture says.  

Admin

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, John. 

When Hatmaker gave statistics on pastors' job satisfaction (or lack thereof), I saw it as a way to highlight the pressure on pastors, not the fact that pastors have problems (as we all do). I saw it as a challenge to narrow the role of pastors so that they can EQUIP disciples instead of bearing the responsibility for the spiritual development of each member of the congregation (which is the Holy Spirit's work anyway). 

I really appreciate your point on God working through our weakness. I completely agree and am reminded of this every single day (thanks be to God!). 

What I find fascinating is the fact that only 21% of pastors feel as though their employer has unrealistic expectations of them. And the posted information does not consider how many of that 21% deal with the unrealistic expectations with healthy boundaries. The fact is that according to the March 2011 American Psychology Association's survey, 40% of the general workforce feel that their employer has unrealistic expectations of them. So if 79% of the churches have realistic expectations, where does the negative stuff come from? Certainly not the employer.

As I read through the original article I find that it is exceptionally positive and hopeful for people in ministry. It is a great career with exceptionally positive working relationships, support networks and job satisfaction ratings.

Ed Stetzer's article on the misuse of statistics is helpful to blow away the myth that ministry is the worst calling in the world that leads to terrible marriages, resentful children and burned out pastors. see: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/october/that-stat-that-s...

It would be refreshing to hear conversations that focus on helpful facts like the fact that 93% of Protestant pastors strongly agreed with the statement "I feel privileged to be a pastor" and an additional 4% who agreed with that statement (Lifeway Research). Try to find that satisfaction rate in any other career. 

Admin

Thank you so much for this comment, Bob. Your insights and references help give a much more accurate and complete picture (and show the trouble with picking and choosing statistics to share). One thing I did appreciate about Hatmaker's article was how she used the lens of a consumer culture to highlight the need for pastors and churches to be equippers, so that each and every person can become a disciple.

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