Whether it’s addressing a variety of complex social issues or discerning how to handle a pandemic in church contexts, pastors have been asked to lead in very challenging times. The pressures of the last few years have taken a toll on those called to shepherd, as evidenced by a dramatic increase in the number of pastors who have given serious consideration to leaving vocational ministry — from 29 percent in 2021 to 43 percent in March 2022, according to Barna research.

NAE President Walter Kim talks with Dr. Glenn Packiam, pastor and senior fellow at Barna Group, in Today’s Conversation podcast. They discuss:

  • The top reasons pastors give for wanting to leave ministry; 
  • How pastors can grow in stress management;
  • What churches can do to support their leaders; and
  • How to build resiliency in pastoral and church ministry.

Read a Portion of the Transcript

Walter: What helps pastors or leaders manage stress well?

Glenn: I have been helped tremendously by the work of Ruth Haley Barton and Pete Scazzero and others like that. Some of the themes in their work … you know Scazzero talks a lot about embracing limitations. That’s language, Walter, that I didn’t used to know. We didn’t talk about limits; we talked about the God of no limits or the God of the impossible, forgetting that that’s God and not us.

Part of step one in this is acknowledging our mortality, acknowledging our humanity, our creatureness. We are not the Creator. We are a creature — a created being which means we have limits. We are finite. That leads to so many different practices that kind of rescued me.

We experienced a pretty dramatic moral failure of the founding senior pastor at our church 16 years ago and that became catalyst for my own wakeup call to say, “Wait a minute. Never mind his sin — that’s serious on its own — but let the Holy Spirit search my own heart. And I began to realize I didn’t have any built-in rhythms of Sabbath or of solitude or of silence. And it’s not that I’m so great at all of those things right now, Walter, but I’m struggling intentionally in that direction. I was talking with Ruth Haley Barton recently, and she’s done this for years now with the Transformation Center and she says the key habit for all leaders is the habit of Sabbath and solitude.

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Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Wesley Seminary.

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