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Updated: 4 hours 40 min ago

Pastors Don’t Link World Events to Speeding up Return of Christ

Wed, 15/01/2020 - 4:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Like everyone else, U.S. Protestant pastors may have been closely watching the recent events related to Iran, but probably not because they thought it had anything to do with the return of Christ.

Pastors are more than three times as likely to believe Christians can speed up the return of Christ by the spread of their faith than by backing certain geo-political changes, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

“While Scripture specifically says we cannot know the day or the hour of Jesus Christ’s return, we were interested in pastors’ views on whether Christians can play a role in bringing about that return any sooner,” explained Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

Around 1 in 8 Protestant pastors (12%) believe Christians can speed up the second coming of Jesus by supporting geo-political changes mentioned in the Bible, with 5% strongly agreeing.

Eight in 10 pastors don’t believe their support will have an impact on the timetable of Christ’s return, including 61% who strongly disagree.

During heightened conflicts with Syria, a 2013 LifeWay Research study found many Americans were likely to link global conflict with end times.

Almost 1 in 3 saw the conflict as part of the Bible’s plan for the end times. One in 4 thought a U.S. military strike in Syria could lead to Armageddon. And 1 in 5 believed the world would end in their lifetime, including 32% of evangelicals.

“A large majority of pastors do not see biblical prophecies about future changes among nations as a roadmap for advocating specific international engagement,” said McConnell.

In the most recent study of Protestant pastors, there is no significant difference between mainline and evangelical pastors regarding their views about international political affairs speeding up the return of Christ. There are, however, differences among ethnicities.

White pastors (11%) are less likely to believe backing geo-political events will hasten Jesus’ second coming than African American pastors (20%) or pastors of other ethnicities (22%).

Pastors 65 and older (16%) are more likely to agree than younger pastors, those 18 to 44 (9%).

Additional education decreases the likelihood a pastor agrees that support from Christians of geo-political events will speed up the return of Christ. Pastors without a college degree are more than twice as likely to agree as those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree—22% to 10%.

Evangelism to end times

In what Christians call the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus tells his followers to “make disciples of all nations,” which is often understood as a command to spread the faith to all distinct people groups.

Previously in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus connects this occurring to his second coming. “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 CSB).

Protestant pastors are split, however, on whether Christians can actually speed up the return of Christ by helping to share the gospel with all people groups.

Close to 2 in 5 (41%) believe Christians can hasten Jesus’ second coming through world evangelism, while around half (54%) disagree.

“The Great Commission was a task Jesus gave his followers to be doing while he is gone,” said McConnell. “Four in 10 pastors believe the pace of sharing the message of what Jesus has done will impact the timing of Christ’s return. Presumably many of those who disagree would assert exclusively divine control over Christ’s return.”

Denominationally, Pentecostal pastors (66%) are the most likely to agree Christians can speed up Jesus’ return by sharing the gospel with all people groups.

Those with no college degree (56%) are more likely to agree than those with additional degrees.

Pastors 65 and older are the age group most likely to agree (52%).

White pastors are more likely than African American pastors to disagree that the second coming of Christ can be sped up by global evangelism—55% to 43%.

Immoral until the end?

Whenever the second coming of Christ may be, most Protestant pastors believe immorality will be more common until Jesus returns.

Almost 7 in 10 (68%) agree “culture will increasingly get less moral until Jesus Christ returns.” Around a quarter (26%) disagree.

Evangelical pastors (80%) are far more likely to agree than mainline pastors (51%). Pastors 45 and older (71%) are more likely to agree than younger pastors (62%).

Again, education plays a role in pastors’ likelihood to agree. Those with no college degree (90%) or a bachelor’s degree (81%) are more likely to believe immorality will increase until the return of Jesus than those with a master’s degree (61%) or a doctoral degree (63%).

Baptist (86%) and Pentecostal (84%) pastors are more likely to agree than Church of Christ (67%), Lutheran (59%), Methodist (48%), or Presbyterian and Reformed pastors (45%).

“On the surface, the responses of most pastors could be described as feeling helpless regarding these specific aspects of the future,” said McConnell. “Yet the persistence of their faith amidst a lack of control points to an even greater level of hope.”

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 24, 2019. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size.

Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.3%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

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Pastors Less Optimistic About Economy’s Impact on Their Congregation

Wed, 04/12/2019 - 4:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As retail stores hope the holiday shopping season gives their bottom line a lift, American Protestant pastors are less sure the economy is helping their congregation this year.

Around 2 in 5 pastors of Protestant churches in the United States (41%) say the economy is having no impact on their church, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The rest are nearly split on whether the effect is positive (30%) or negative (26%).

“Fundamentally, the U.S. economy is in a similar place that it was a year ago,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Yet pastors are less optimistic about this outside influence on their church than they were in 2018.”

While the 30% of pastors who believe the economy is having a positive impact is more than triple what it was in the first part of this decade, it’s down sharply from the 45% who felt the same way in 2018.

The percentage of pastors who feel a negative impact from the economy increased for the first time since 2010.

After falling in every survey from a high of 80% in October 2010, the percentage jumped from 14% in September 2018 to 26% this year.

African American pastors are the most likely to say the economy is having a negative effect on their congregation (49%), while white pastors are the most likely to see a positive impact for their church (33%).

Pastors of the smallest congregations, those with fewer than 50 in attendance, are most likely to say the economy is having a negative impact (37%) and the least likely to say it’s having a positive one (17%).

Offerings up or stable

Whatever the economic climate is outside the church, around 3 in 4 pastors say their offerings this year have been at or above last year’s.

More than a third (37%) say their church’s giving has been up so far this year. The same percentage (37%) say it has been the same as 2018.

Close to 1 in 5 (21%) say their offering totals are below last year’s levels.

Those numbers are not as strong as in the 2018 LifeWay Research study when 42% of Protestant pastors said their offerings were above 2017, 37% said giving was the same, and 15% said it was below.

“Last year was the first year in which many Americans had lower withholding levels because of tax reform,” said McConnell. “It’s not surprising that fewer churches are seeing year-over-year growth in 2019 without a similar stimulus to their congregants’ take-home pay.”

Larger churches are more likely to see increased giving from 2018. Half of churches with 250 or more in attendance (50%) say offerings are up this year. Forty-two percent of pastors of churches with attendance of 100 to 249 say the same.

A third of congregations with 50 to 99 in attendance (34%) have seen an increase in 2019, while only a quarter of churches with fewer than 50 (25%) have seen a similar uptick.

African American pastors are again the most likely to see a negative financial picture in their congregations. More than a third (36%) say their giving is below 2018, while 22% say the offering is above last year.

About half of all Protestant pastors (51%) say their total offerings in 2019 have been about what they budgeted, while 23% say they have been higher than budgeted and 23% say lower.

Last year, 48% said giving was similar to the budgeted amount, 29% said offering exceeded budget, and 19% said it was lower than budgeted.

Pastors say tax reform lacked impact

More than 3 in 5 pastors (64%) say they don’t think the 2018 tax reform had any effect on their church’s finances.

Similar numbers believe the changes negatively impacted their congregation (14%) as the pastors who say they’ve seen a positive impact (12%). Around 1 in 10 (11%) say they’re not sure.

When asked in 2018 as the reforms were being implemented, pastors were slightly more optimistic. Half (49%) said they didn’t expect any impact, but 26% thought they would see a positive effect on their church’s finances.

This year, pastors of larger churches, those with attendance of 250 and more, are more likely to say the tax reform has positively impacted their congregation (20%) than pastors of churches with 50 to 99 in attendance (10%) and those with fewer than 50 (7%).

“There are no signs the 2018 tax reform created continued income growth for churches,” noted McConnell.

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 24, 2019. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size.

Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups

Comparisons are also made to the following telephone surveys using the same methodology:

  • 1,002 pastors conducted Nov. 5-12, 2009
  • 1,000 pastors conducted March 1-9, 2010
  • 1,000 pastors conducted Oct. 7-14, 2010
  • 1,002 pastors conducted Jan. 17-27, 2011
  • 1,000 pastors conducted May 18-25, 2011
  • 1,000 pastors conducted May 23-31, 2012
  • 1,000 pastors conducted Sept. 11-18, 2014
  • 1,000 pastors conducted Jan. 8-22, 2016
  • 1,000 pastors conducted Aug. 30 – Sept.18, 2017

1,000 pastors conducted Aug. 29 – Sept. 11, 2018

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Half of Pastors See Opioid Abuse in Their Own Congregations

Wed, 20/11/2019 - 4:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Like most U.S. pastors, Robby Gallaty knows someone who has been affected by opioid abuse. But unlike most pastors, Gallaty has personally suffered through addiction.

Twenty years ago this month, Gallaty endured a near-fatal car accident. When he left the hospital, the club-bouncer-turned-church-leader took with him several prescriptions for painkillers.

“My descent into full-scale drug abuse was amazingly rapid,” he writes in his new book, Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, and Addiction Led Me to God. “In November of 1999, before the accident, I was selling cars, training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and thinking about business opportunities. By early the next year, I was looking for faster and better drug connections.”

After stealing $15,000 from his parents to feed his addiction, Gallaty found himself at his lowest point—kicked out of his parents’ home and told not to come back.

“It was the hardest three months of their lives, and they’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it was the best thing for me. I knew that I couldn’t fix myself.”

This led Gallaty, now pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., to what he calls a “radical, Paul-like conversion” on November 12, 2002.

Most pastors don’t have the intimate knowledge of addiction Gallaty has, but most say they’ve seen it face to face through people connected to their church and even among members of their congregation.

Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked 1,000 Protestant pastors about their personal connections to the opioid epidemic and how their churches are looking to address the issue.

Two-thirds of pastors (66%) say a family member of someone in their congregation has been personally affected by opioid abuse.

More than half (55%) say they or someone in their congregation knows a local neighbor suffering through opioid abuse.

For half of pastors (52%), someone directly in their church is dealing with an opioid addiction.

Fewer than a quarter (23%) of pastors say they don’t know anyone personally affected by it.

“The drug epidemic has infiltrated our churches and neighborhoods. It is not localized to a particular region or socio-economic class,” said Gallaty. “Addiction is no respecter of persons.”

Pastors of the smallest churches (fewer than 50 in attendance) are most likely to say they don’t know anyone connected to their congregation or community affected by opioid abuse (31%).

Pastors in the Northeast (11%) are least likely to say they don’t have any such personal connections.

“More than two-thirds of even the smallest churches have connections to people affected by opioid abuse,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Opioid addiction can impact people who aren’t a significant risk for other types of drugs.”

Church response

Despite most pastors having a personal experience with someone suffering from opioid abuse, Gallaty said many church leaders don’t know where to start in responding to the opioid epidemic.

“Some pastors are at a loss to understand the issues surrounding personal struggles and don’t have a plan of action to help those in need,” he said.

Unfortunately, Gallaty said some pastors are dismissive of “those drug heads” from a certain area of their town, but he says that attitude is wrong for two reasons.

Being a college graduate with a full-time job and having a good home with hard-working parents means Gallaty didn’t fit those stereotypes. “I never asked to be injured, nor did I intend to get addicted to pain medication,” said the Recovered author. “Still, it happened to me, like it has to so many others.”

Even more importantly, Gallaty said “‘those drug heads are sons and daughters of people in our congregations and communities. They are all made in the image of God and need to know that addiction, like any sin, can be broken through the healing power of the gospel.”

According to the LifeWay Research study, most churches are trying to do something.

Around 4 in 5 pastors (82%) say their church currently serves people with opioid addiction by offering spiritual support including prayer or discipleship.

Close to half (46%) say they offer physical support including food, shelter or clothing, while slightly fewer (40%) offer a 12-step program or other support groups for substance abuse.

Around 1 in 8 pastors (13%) admit their church currently isn’t doing any of those things for people with opioid addiction.

“When churches offer spiritual and physical help to those in their community, they will meet people with many needs that go beyond those offerings,” said McConnell. “Churches have a choice of whether they will address those more complex needs, connect the hurting with help elsewhere, or ignore the needs.”

Larger churches—those with more resources and more personal connections to the crisis—are most likely to say they offer both spiritual and practical help for those with an opioid addiction.

Gallaty said one simple way churches can address the problem is by “educating our people on the dangers of addiction by talking about it publicly and preaching sermons about the topic. Pastors shouldn’t shy away from it.”

As people with addictions come to the attention of the church, however, Gallaty said congregations and leaders must be ready. “When people come to our churches as hospitals for healing, pastors should have a game plan to help them,” he said.

“We can stick our heads in the sand and hope the issue dissolves, or we can recognize the need and take steps to come alongside those struggling.”

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, 2018. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size.

Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

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African Americans Have Mixed Opinions and Often No Opinions on Israel

Wed, 06/11/2019 - 4:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — American Jews and African Americans often worked side by side during the civil rights movement, including when rabbis walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the march to Selma in 1965.

In more recent years, however, the relationship has become more complicated due to conflicts between the nation of Israel and Palestinians and the resulting political responses from groups like Black Lives Matter.

A new study from LifeWay Research explored African Americans’ thoughts about Israel, Jews, religious identification, news consumption and other issues. On many of the issues related directly to Israel, African Americans frequently say they’re unsure what to think.

“Needed social reforms in the U.S. may have distracted African Americans’ attention from following challenges in Israel,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “That hasn’t turned many African Americans against Israel but leaves many with honestly no opinion on matters of support, conflicts and even history.”

Thoughts on the nation of Israel

The study, sponsored by the Philos Project, found African Americans are more likely to say they carefully follow domestic policy (68%) than say the same about foreign policy (59%).

With Israel specifically, 42% of African Americans have a positive perception of the country. More than a quarter (27%) have a negative opinion. A third (32%) aren’t sure.

Three in 5 (61%) say a political candidate having pro-Israel policies would make them neither more nor less likely to vote for that candidate.

African Americans are divided on the amount of help the U.S. offers to Israel. While 3 in 10 say the U.S. is doing the right amount, 23% say it’s too much, 12% say it’s not enough, and 35% aren’t sure.

Half (52%) say they support Israel’s statehood, while 18% disagree. Three in 10 say they’re not sure.

Two in 5 African Americans (39%) say the international community denies basic recognition as a nation to Israel. A quarter disagree and 36% aren’t sure.

Among those who support Israel’s statehood, 71% say a reason they do so is because every nation has a right to exist, and 30% say it’s because Israel is the historic Jewish homeland.

Some African Americans point to religious reasons for their support: 28% say it’s because Jesus was a Jew, 25% say they support Israel’s statehood because it is important for fulfilling biblical prophecy, and 24% say the Bible says Christians should support Israel.

Another 24% say their support is influenced by Israel being the United States’ closest ally in an unstable region.

Still, other African Americans speak of Israel being a needed refuge for Jews after the Holocaust (15%) or the safest place for religious minorities in the Middle East (11%).

Civil rights connections

Many African Americans see historic connections between themselves and Jews during the civil rights movement. A significant number of African Americans also draw comparisons to their overcoming struggles as a people and that of the ancient Israelites.

Half of African Americans (49%) say Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong supporter of the Jewish people. Slightly fewer (42%) believe he was a strong supporter of Israel.

More than 2 in 5 (43%) say Jewish people in America were instrumental in the civil rights movement, while a quarter (23%) disagree.

Many African Americans say they think more positively about the nation of Israel because of the historic connections between the journey of their ethnicity and the journey of the Jews.

Around a quarter say their opinion of Israel has been positively influenced due to the historic parallels between the enslavement of Jews in ancient Egypt and blacks in America (27%) and due to the similarities between the two groups overcoming oppression: Jewish people in pursuing the promised land and African Americans pursing civil rights (26%).

Most (62%) say they are not familiar with the teachings of Black Hebrew Israelites, a group that contends black Americans are the physical descendants of the ancient Israelites. Few (4%) consider themselves to be a Black Hebrew Israelite.

Growing anti-Semitism?

More than a quarter of African Americans (28%) say they are seeing more black people they know express anti-Semitism than in the past.

Three in 10 African Americans (30%) agree with the subtle anti-Semitic phrase, “Jewish people have too much control of American finances.”

Around 1 in 5 (19%) believe Jewish people are blocking black progress in the United States.

When asked about a Louis Farrakhan quote claiming Jewish people have a “tremendous” influence in the U.S. government and as a result “black people in this country will never be free until they are free of that kind of control,” 41% of African Americans agree.

“While they may be unrelated, it is worth noting that at the same time the contributions of Jewish people in the civil rights movement have passed beyond the memory of the majority of African Americans, some are also seeing a rise in anti-Semitism,” said McConnell.

Media and faith influence opinions

African Americans say the news media (46%) has influenced their opinions about Israel. Several say the Bible (24%), friends and family (18%) and positions of elected officials (15%) have also influenced them. A quarter aren’t sure.

A third of African Americans (33%) say they have a Jewish friend.

When asked what has influenced them the most, African Americans are most likely to point to the media (34%) or the Bible (17%). Still, 26% aren’t sure.

Eight in 10 say they regularly get news from television. Around half turn to social media (48%) or websites (46%). Fewer point to the radio (37%), print media (29%) or news apps (27%) as a regular news source.

Still, African Americans aren’t convinced the news sources they follow are objective in their coverage of Israel. A quarter (26%) believe the reporting is objective. One in 10 believe the news is slanted against Israel, while 16% believe it is pro-Israel. Almost half (48%) aren’t sure.

Specific religious beliefs may also play into many African Americans’ support of Israel.

Two in 5 (41%) say the formation of modern Israel is a fulfillment of God’s covenant with the Jewish people.

More than 3 in 5 African Americans (62%) believe God’s promise of the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants was for all time.

“No single source has influenced the majority of African American opinions on Israel,” said McConnell. “Media, faith and friends each influence some, but 1 in 4 aren’t sure of any influence.”

Divided over the Palestinian conflict

Seven in 10 African Americans say they sympathize equally with the hardships Israelis and Palestinians face.

Fifteen percent say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. The same number feel more connection to the Israelis. Those numbers are similar to a previous LifeWay Research study of the views of Hispanic Christians toward Israel.

Half of African Americans agree the state of Israel is regularly attacked with bombs and terrorist acts by Palestinians.

Close to half (46%) agree the Palestinian Authority denies basic recognition as a nation to Israel.

More than 2 in 5 African Americans (43%) say Israel denies the Palestinians’ basic human rights.

Around 2 in 5 African Americans (41%) believe the state of Israel has laws that discriminate against the Palestinian people. The same percentage (41%) say they aren’t sure.

Around a third (32%) believe Americans should boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. Slightly more (38%) aren’t sure.

Most African Americans (70%) say they were unaware the platform of the Black Lives Matter movement accuses Israel of genocide and apartheid against the Palestinian people.

A third say that position does not change their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Almost a quarter (23%) say it makes them more aligned with the movement, while 9% makes them less aligned. Twelve percent say it does not change their opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Most African Americans (54%) say the platform doesn’t change their opinion of the Palestinians and Israel.

“African Americans see difficulties faced by both Palestinians and Israelis, and most are not taking one side on various aspects of the conflict,” said McConnell. “Yet 6 in 10 are concerned about the safety of Christians in areas controlled by the Palestinian authority.”

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The online survey of 1,019 African Americans was conducted March 22-April 2, 2019 by LifeWay Research. The study was sponsored by the Philos Project. Sample was obtained from a large national panel. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, education and religious group to reflect the African American population. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error from the panel does not exceed plus or minus 3.6%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

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Retired Pastors Satisfied and Optimistic, but See Room for Improvement

Thu, 24/10/2019 - 3:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most retirement age pastors and missionaries say their current life is close to ideal, but some who have entered retirement say they could’ve been better prepared.

In a survey sponsored by Shepherd’s Fold Ministries, Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked 2,451 pastors, ministers and missionaries who were retired or at least 67 years old about their life, health, relationships, reflections on ministry, and how they’ve adjusted to their current life stage.

“Our number one goal is to provide relevant resources to help retired ministers,” said Brent Van Hook, director of Shepherd’s Fold Ministries. “The results of this study show specific ways retired ministers can experience genuine higher well-being related to social, spiritual, physical and financial health.”

Out of those ministers or missionaries surveyed, 8 in 10 (81%) are currently retired or mostly retired. Around half (52%) have been in ministry 40 years or longer, with 35% serving 40 to 49 years and 17% serving 50 years or more.

The vast majority think fondly about their previous ministry. More than 9 in 10 (92%) say they are satisfied with their ministry efforts before retirement, with 59% saying they are very satisfied.

When asked about their feelings toward the churches or mission field where they served, around 8 in 10 (79%) say they feel thankful. More than half say love (59%), proud of them (53%), or rewarded (52%). Slightly fewer say encouraged (48%) or connected (43%).

Few retirement age pastors or missionaries say they feel disappointed (16%), disconnected (16%), betrayed (8%) or bitter (2%).

When asked to think about their overall life today, including relationships, spiritual health, finances and physical health, 3 in 4 (74%) agree their life is close to ideal in most ways.

Similar numbers describe their current life conditions as excellent (76%), while more than 8 in 10 (86%) say they are satisfied with their life today.

“These three questions were used to create a life satisfaction score,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Analysis revealed the characteristics that predict higher life satisfaction include being in better health, satisfaction with ministry efforts, positive feelings about where they served, financial stability for retirement, and current relationships.”

Physical health

In describing their overall health, 72% say they are active and healthy, while 14% say they have physical disabilities that limit them, and 12% say their spouse has such limitations.

Fewer retirement age ministers say their spouse has been diagnosed with a mental illness like depression, dementia or Alzheimer’s (5%), they spend significant amount of their time caring for the health of someone with disabilities (5%), or have been diagnosed with a mental illness themselves (3%).

Around 4 in 10 (41%) agree having more help with their own health or the health of someone they care for would help at least a little.

Retirement age ministers are most likely to say information, tips and best practices for maintaining good health would help the most (25%), along with financial assistance (21%), and Medicare supplementary insurance (19%).

“While many retire from ministry in good health, aging brings with it healthcare needs for pastors and missionaries,” said McConnell. “Some are sidelined by health needs, and others could use financial help for medical care.”

Relationships

Most older pastors, ministers and missionaries say they have close relationships that allow them to share problems, but some may be facing loneliness.

Among those who are currently married, 93% say their spouse is very satisfied with their marriage.

When asked about meeting with someone at least once a month to openly share struggles, 61% of those surveyed say they talk with their spouse. A third (33%) meet with a close friend, 19% talk to a Bible study group in their church, and 3% meet with a counselor.

A quarter (26%), however, say they don’t regularly meet and share with any of these.

Around 7 in 10 (69%) say they have at least three close friends with whom they see or speak with at least once a month, with 17% saying they have 10 or more.

Still, 21% say they see or talk to one or two friends, and 10% say they don’t have any friends outside of family that they meet with at least once a month.

The vast majority say they have continued to make new friends in recent years (86%) and have many close relationships at their current church (68%). Still, 29% say they often feel lonely or isolated.

Most (58%) say they currently live near their children, 42% live near most of their friends, but 22% say they don’t live near either.

Around half (48%) agree if they had more help connecting with new friends it would help improve their overall well-being at least a little. A quarter (25%) say it would not help at all.

More retirement age ministers say they would benefit from making friends who have had a similar experience in ministry (25%), making friends who live near them (23%), and relating to a church in which they are not in leadership (20%).

“Retirement sometimes means separation from past friends,” said McConnell. “It’s important to continue to invest in new relationships.”

Finances

Three-quarters (76%) of retirement age ministers are confident they will have enough money to live comfortably through retirement, with 31% saying they are very confident.

Still, almost half (47%) say they are often concerned about the financial security of their family and 27% say their physical needs or those of their spouse have caused significant financial strain.

More than half (55%) say their household’s current annual income is less than $60,000. Slightly more than a third (36%) have less than $100,000 in retirement savings.

Virtually all retired ministers (94%) receive Social Security benefits. Around 3 in 5 (59%) have a pension plan with their current or former employer.

Four in 5 (81%) say they currently live in a residence they own, while 10% rent, 3% live in a residence provided by a church or ministry, 3% live with family and 1% live in an assisted living facility.

Three in 5 (59%) say they currently have some form of debt, the most common being a mortgage (37%), a car loan (27%) or credit card debt (20%).

Of those with a mortgage, 42% have 20 years or more left on the loan. Around 3 in 10 (29%) say they have 10 to 19 years. The same (29%) say they have nine years or less.

Those who have debt were asked how much debt their household has outside of their mortgage. A quarter (25%) say they have no non-mortgage debt and an additional 53% say they have less than $30,000, including 28% having less than $10,000.

Some retired pastors, however, say they have substantial non-mortgage debt. Around 1 in 7 (15%) say they have at least $30,000 in debt, including 4% saying theirs is at least $100,000.

Almost 3 in 5 (58%) say if they had help with their finances it would improve their overall well-being at least a little.

Retirement age pastors and missionaries are most likely to say they need help managing retirement funds (22%), finding work suitable for retired ministers (17%) or learning how to stretch their current resources (16%).

“The fact that most pastors and missionaries feel financially ready for retirement doesn’t negate the fact that a quarter are not in a good position,” said McConnell. “Health issues have complicated the financial picture for many of those with financial strains.”

Preparation for retirement

Among those who are currently retired, 76% say they were prepared for the adjustment to retirement. Seven in 10 (70%) say the transition was easy.

The most common approaches to preparing for the transition were speaking with others who had retired (46%), reading articles on the topic (42%), or attending a retreat or conference for those nearing retirement from ministry (26%). One in 5 (20%) say they did not prepare for the transition at all.

Still, 33% say they have struggled with the adjustment, and 28% feel they lack purpose since they retired from the ministry.

Almost 2 in 5 (39%) say they have had to rethink their sense of value and worth since retiring and 27% say that retirement forced them to think about their value to God.

When asked an open-ended question about what advice they would give those retiring from the ministry in the future, those currently at retirement age most frequently said to save and plan financially (13%), plan ahead (10%), enjoy and embrace retirement (8%), be prepared (7%), find opportunities to volunteer or serve (6%), stay active (4%), trust God (4%), pray (4%) and develop interests or hobbies (3%).

Shepherd’s Fold Ministries’ Van Hook said the number one advice they would give to those planning for retirement from the ministry would be, “Don’t do nothing.

“We learned that just a little bit of action goes a long, long way toward increasing long-term well-being,” said Van Hook. “You’re in this ministry for the long haul, why not invest in your long-term well-being? Momentum builds quickly, so do something today.”

Retirement age ministers also volunteered some ways ministries can best help those like themselves, such as opportunities to serve or minister (16%), a pension or retirement plan (7%), financial planning or assistance (5%), include them (5%), offer seminars, workshops or retreats (4%), opportunities to stay active (4%), keep in touch with them (4%), offer encouragement (3%), show appreciation or recognize them (3%) and provide resources (3%).

For churches and ministries looking to better serve retired and retiring pastors and missionaries, Van Hook said there are two primary ways they can reach out.

“The first way is to partner with the growing number of ministries and resource centers that exist to help retired ministers,” he said. “Secondly, simply communicate with retired ministers and listen. Those actions will go a long way to making them feel appreciated.”

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The online survey of retired Protestant pastors, ministers and missionaries was conducted June 11- July 23, 2019. The study was sponsored by Shepherd’s Fold Ministries.

Invitations were emailed to retirees and those of retirement age using lists from the following organizations: Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Church of the Brethren, Church of the Nazarene, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wesleyan Church, Operation Mobilization, OMF International, One Mission Society, WEC International, and Wycliffe. Reminder emails were also sent. Respondents were screened to include those who had served as a pastor of a church, other minister in a church, or missionary and are retired or of retirement age (67+).

Quotas and slight weights were used to balance denominational/organizational affiliation based on the number of eligible retirees. The completed sample is 2,451 surveys.

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Pastors of Larger Churches More Likely to Regularly Counsel and Disciple Members

Wed, 16/10/2019 - 3:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Meetings often fill the calendars of office workers, but pastors say their days are often full of meetings as well.

A survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked 1,000 Protestant pastors if they regularly have any of six types of meetings. Virtually every pastor (99%) says they regularly have at least one of those work-related meetings.

“Churches are people, and church ministry is people ministry,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It is not surprising that pastors participate in many meetings, but the nature of those meetings varies.”

Nine in 10 pastors (90%) say they regularly meet to counsel church members.

Pastors of churches with attendance of 100 to 249 (94%) and those with 250 or more (94%) are more likely to say they have these counseling meetings regularly than pastors of churches with attendance of 50 to 99 (88%) and those with less than 50 in attendance (83%).

In an earlier LifeWay Research study on mental illness, 10% of pastors indicated they have a graduate degree in counseling or psychology and 38% had taken graduate school courses in counseling.

Another previous study from LifeWay Research found that 76% of pastors say they refer church members to a professional counselor if they require more than two counseling sessions.

“Pastors have opportunities to give spiritual counsel as well as advice on many other life issues,” said McConnell. “Pastors of larger churches have more people under their care. While they may have additional staff, the senior pastor is still the first person a churchgoer confides in during difficulties.”

Close to 9 in 10 Protestant pastors (88%) say they regularly meet to encourage members to step into leadership roles.

Pastors 65 and older (82%) and those in churches with attendance of less than 50 (79%) are the least likely to say this is a regular part of their ministry.

More than 4 in 5 pastors (84%) say they meet with individuals one-on-one to personally disciple them.

Pastors age 45 to 54 (90%) are more likely to have these meetings regularly than those 55 to 64 (82%) and those 65 and older (80%).

Around 4 in 5 (82%) say they meet with visitors or new attendees.

Protestant pastors in the South (85%) are more likely to do so than those in the Midwest (79%).

Pastors 65 and older are the least likely to regularly meet with those new to the church (73%).

Presbyterian or Reformed (86%) and Baptist (85%) pastors are more likely to say they have these meetings than Pentecostal pastors (74%).

Pastors are also extremely likely to say they lead a small group Bible study (80%).

Those who lead the smallest congregations (73%) are the least likely to say this is part of their regular ministry.

Pastors younger than 55 (82%) are more likely to lead such a small group than those 65 and older (74%).

A clear majority of Protestant pastors (63%) also say they have regular meetings with two or three individuals to personally disciple them.

Again, larger church pastors, those of churches with attendance of 100 to 249 (68%) and those with 250 or more (67%), are more likely to establish regular small group discipleship meetings than those at churches with less than 50 in attendance (55%).

“Some may think pastors of larger churches spend less time directly with people, but they are just as involved in ministry meetings and more of them actually meet regularly with people for counseling and small discipleship groups than in smaller churches,” said McConnell.

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, 2018. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size.

Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population.

The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2%. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

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