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06 June 2013

Demands of ministry 'put church leaders under pressure'

Demands of ministry 'put church leaders under pressure'

Do church leaders feel supported? Do they find time for rest or for investing in family? These are just a few of the questions that the Alliance explored as part of its ongoing study into the beliefs, habits and practices of evangelical Christians in the UK through the latest  21st Century Evangelicals report. 

The latest report – Life in the church – uncovered several challenges for church leaders. Only 58 per cent of them say they have good supportive relationships with other local church leaders. It also found 38 per cent find it very difficult to find any time for rest or relaxation and 25 per cent say their marriage, family and friendships suffer due to the demands of ministry.

One leader in the survey said: "The ministry is hard work and frustrating at times but hugely enjoyable and very rewarding."

Another added: "As an authorised lay minister of a fairly large church, I am frequently involved in very difficult issues and situation and it is very easy to get 'burnt out' and the need for time out is essential."

When questioning members, 13 per cent of respondents feel their leader seeks to dominate and control and under two thirds of the congregation regularly pray for their church leader.

However, leaders have committed congregations - 29 per cent of respondents give six to 10 hours of their time to the church each week, while a further 11 per cent give more than 10 hours. Job satisfaction is high – 84 per cent of church leaders greatly enjoy their ministry work.

Evangelical leaders are popular – only seven per cent of church members have a problem with their leader, with nearly one in 10 of those having moved church citing leadership problems as the reason they left.   Leaders admit to a tendency to work long hours, which they say makes their family life or friendships suffer, yet they are seen by their members to be good delegators. Leaders try hard to be strong and decisive, leading from the front, but are less confident than their congregation about achieving this – 56 per cent of leaders try to display decisive qualities, while 70 per cent of their membership think they adequately display this quality.

We are positive about our own churches, with more than 70 per cent of respondents believing that attendance would increase in the next 20 years. Around 47 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that their church was currently growing in numbers.

Steve Clifford, general director of the Alliance, said: "The call to leadership in the Church is a noble call, which carries with it the wonderful privilege of serving God and His people. However, it is also a place of pressure that can at times turn to stress. I would encourage leadership teams all over the country to take these survey findings and use them as an opportunity to talk, and if appropriate take action to ensure those in leadership are cared for and supported in their God-given task. 

"Churches are never perfect and we must remember to pray for our leaders and fellow church family, particularly when they face frustrations and disappointments. But we should be encouraged and full of hope for the future of the Church in the UK, thanking God for church growth and praying for more."

The report covers many other areas of church life, including women in leadership, church discipline, community engagement and reasons why people leave church. It is available online at www.eauk.org/snapshot, where hard copies can also be ordered.