Clergy Discontentment Continues to Rise

The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has been tracking how clergy feel about their profession since 2021 through their “Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations” (EPIC) project. 

The project’s latest results from fall 2023, released this week, found that 53% of pastors have considered leaving ministry altogether, a 16% increase from Spring 2021. The percentage of clergy considering leaving their current congregation has more than doubled during that time frame, from 21% to 44%. 

The EPIC project has found a correlation between a pastor’s physical and mental health and their thoughts about leaving their current congregation or ministry altogether. Using a modified version of the Harvard Flourishing Study survey, every indicator of health is significantly lower for those who often think about leaving ministry or their current congregations than for those who never think about leaving. 

Financial health indicators draw the most stark contrast between those who are content in their current congregations and those who aren’t. Among the clergy who never think about leaving their current churches, the average financial health indicator is 7.5% (on a scale of 10). The average financial health indicator is 5% for those who think about leaving their current congregations often. 

The study also draws connections between congregational conflict and willingness to change with discontentment, along with other factors. 

The report notes that while it “covers several dynamics related to clergy considering leaving their congregation or the ministry profession, we have only scratched the surface of exploring how clergy are doing in this post-pandemic phase.” 

The Hartford Institute also announced plans to release a report in March “which examines the health and wellness patterns among ministers in more depth.” 

To read the full report, click here.

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