Thursday, January 11, 2024

New Report Finds Increasing Clergy Discontentment Driven by Congregational Conflict and Disconnection 

Hartford, Connecticut — A new report released Jan. 11 by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research finds that nearly half of Christian clergy have considered leaving their congregation and over half have considered leaving the ministry altogether. The report, titled “I’m Exhausted All the Time — Exploring the Factors Contributing to Growing Clergy Discontentment” is based on a survey of 1,700 clergy across over 40 denominations conducted in fall 2023. 

While clergy health and wellness contribute somewhat to thoughts of leaving, the report concludes that the major factors are contextual, driven by dynamics within the congregation rather than general dissatisfaction with the vocation. Clergy who have considered leaving their congregation cite high levels of conflict and feelings of relational disconnection from church members. For those thinking of leaving the ministry entirely, these variables plus additional factors like less desire to change, clergy age, full-time status, solo leadership, church size and denomination also come into play. 

“This data shows it’s not simply a case of burned-out pastors looking to quit,” said Principal Investigator Scott Thumma. “While personal factors contribute, the bulk of discontentment stems from congregational conflict, an unwillingness to adapt, and poor relationships between pastors and their flocks. Both the problem and the solution are contextual, not individual.” 

The report identified potential solutions in improving congregational dynamics around conflict, relationships, and outlook for the future. Researchers emphasize the importance of both clergy self-care and addressing contextual factors within the church. 

The report is part of a larger research project, Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations, focused on the effects of COVID-19 on churches and clergy. More information can be found online

For further information or to schedule an interview contact Scott Thumma at sthumma@hartfordinternational.edu.