Priests are Stressed and This Study Tells Why

Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
According to a study, the reason behind Bishop and Priest stress has been uncovered and it’s quite eye-opening.

In a recently released, year-long study by Georgetown University, the reason behind much of pastors and priests burn out stems from stress. However, the question is: why are they so stressed?

A Jam-Packed Schedule

It turns out, the life of a priest is jam-packed with harsh expectations, little support and almost non-stop hours. For example, one Houston-based Roman Catholic priest has stated that his typical day involves church, night meetings, hospital calls, a couple hours of sleep and it all repeats. For many, there are several babies to baptize, couples to marry, funerals to perform and hospital visits to make.

According to the Georgetown study, 45% of Chicago’s Catholic priests are overworked, 44% are somewhat overworked and 70% feel burnt out and unhappy. According to the Duke University study, 40% of Protestant clergy members are depressed and worn out, while 75% are obese. This has been a growing phenomenon, and a major part of it is how exhausting it is to do God’s work. However, just as much of the stress stems from the congregation.

Church leaders don’t get a ROI from the Church

There are many factors to consider when looking at the statistics. Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Bishop Michael Rinehart has said that the job is diverse, but stressful. “You bear the scars of those who are hurting” and are still expected to give weekly speeches that are “profound, funny, insightful and inspiring.” Clergy members are often “isolated,” says Rev. Huston McComb, the director of a national program that offers counsel to pastors who have left the church from burn out. They have few personal friends because they are held to higher expectations.

Rev. Mike Cole of the Presbytery of New Covenant, located in Houston, said that it isn’t a “two-way street”. The church expects the minister to offer protection, guidance and comfort, but they don’t return it. There are many other factors as well, such as financial responsibilities and changes within the church. There is schooling, and most pastors have at least $50,000 in debts for their schooling. Some priests aren’t even paid, and if they are, it’s around $44,000 per year.


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