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Startling, but not surprising

If your pastor described himself as lonely, said his prayer life was disappointing and revealed that he felt under-supported by his church, how would you react? Richard Underwood reveals the results of our Pastoral Wellbeing survey and explains how we want to support those leading our churches.

Startling, but not surprising primary image

In 2014, every serving pastor in the FIEC Pastors’ Network was asked to fill in our Pastoral Wellbeing survey. Some of the results we got back were startling – although perhaps not surprising. At least five pastors found the exercise too painful to complete.

The survey was designed to help pastors reflect on their ministry and their life away from church leadership – particularly in terms of spiritual formation, self-care and family life. Its purpose was to capture the encouragements and struggles faced by pastors to enable us at FIEC to better support the men leading our churches and their families.

Feeling isolated but seeing church growth

The results showed that a significant number of our pastors feel isolated and under-supported in their ministry. Half of those who responded don’t have another friend in ministry who can help them to recharge their batteries. Maybe this doesn’t surprise us but is an isolated pastor really a healthy pastor modelling effective local church ministry?

What also resonated from our survey was the number of pastors who describe their prayer life as “dutiful, disappointing or non-existent”. Around two thirds put their prayer life in one of those categories.

It’s not all bad news. Of the pastors who responded to our survey, a clear majority are seeing church growth; most pastors report encouragements in their ministry and nearly half say their ministry helps them to develop their relationship with Jesus.

That said, the overall picture in the survey shows a vast number of pastors facing struggles of one sort or another. They feel they are lacking pastoral support and friendships. In some cases they feel under-supported by their churches.

What next? Churches

So how can FIEC help pastors to iron out some of kinks and ensure church leaders are well supported? This is where our Pastors’ Network comes in.

One of the areas requiring clarification is the relationship between churches and their pastors – either as office-holders or employees. The Pastors’ Network is currently working on a covenant between churches and pastors that is designed both to minimise the scope for misunderstanding and foster a relationship of mutual support and joyful service.

What next? Pastors

We want to encourage men who are leading our churches to support one another in terms of friendship and spiritual support. While we recognise that simply lumping people together in a geographical area may not be the best option, we want to encourage pastors to build a support network that they can turn to when they feel isolated and overwhelmed.

pastors chatting at one of our day conferences

We would like to see these networks encourage friendship and fellowship and hope they could also offer spiritual support as pastors meet together to pray.

In fact, as prayer was such a big issue to come out of our Pastoral Wellbeing survey, we are planning to make prayer the focus of our Pastors’ Network day conferences in 2016. We will be organising the timetable and locations in time to be distributed at the FIEC Leaders’ Conference in November.

Finally, I would like to make a plea. If you are a pastor of an Independent church and you feel that your prayer life is disappointing; that you are isolated or under-supported in your ministry would you consider joining our Pastors’ Network? Or if you are a member already and have a heart to support your peers, would you consider becoming more actively involved in building supportive structures to encourage local church leaders?

For those of you in the Network, please make full use of it – come to the day conferences, build relationships, search out other men who face the same issues, pray with them and for them.

one of our previous day conferences

There are more than 300 serving pastors in our Pastors’ Network but less than half of them lead FIEC churches. Why not join our band of brothers as we look to support men in gospel ministry across Britain?

The results of the Pastoral Wellbeing survey have now been published by the FIEC Pastors’ Network. The response rate was 35%. If you want to receive a copy of the results, please get in touch with us at the FIEC office.

Richard Underwood photo
Richard Underwood - FIEC Pastoral Ministries Director

Richard is married to Pippa and they have two grown-up children. He loves (watching) sport, walking and “extreme reading” (that’s an extremely good book in an extremely comfortable chair!).

Follow Richard Underwood on Twitter – @Richard_J_U