Encouraging the Pastor and His Wife
By Eddie Moody
We all know how critical the pastor and his wife are to the well-being of our church. What are the major challenges they face today, and how can we encourage them?
Last Spring, the Barna Group released a survey  indicating reasons some pastors have considered leaving the ministry, as well as reasons some pastors are determined to stay in the ministry. First, 42% indicated they had considered quitting full-time ministry which was up from 29% in January of 2021. Of those who considered quitting, the top reasons were the immense stress of the job (56%), feeling lonely and isolated (43%), followed by current political divisions (38%). Other reasons included being unhappy with the effect the pastor role had on their family (29%), not being optimistic about the future of their church (29%), the steady decline of the church (24%), feeling unequipped to cope with ministry demands (19%), and not having what they need to be successful in their job (12%).
On the other hand, pastors who have not considered quitting reported experiencing some of the same challenges: immense stress of the job (32%), loneliness and isolation (18%), steadily declining church (12%), unhappiness with the effect the role has upon their family (10%), pessimism about the future of their church (9%), and not having what is needed to be successful in the ministry (4%).
If they experienced the same stressors, though at a different degree, what was the difference? Eighty-three percent of pastors who had not considered quitting said it was because they believe in the value of their ministry. Seventy-five percent said they feel a sense of duty to stay and fulfill their calling in ministry, and 73% were satisfied with their job as a pastor. Proper support was important with 67% saying their family supported them; 59% said they received strong support in their community. This emphasizes the importance of strong and encouraging relationships to help pastors and their wives continue in the ministry.
To identify the kind of support and encouragement Free Will Baptist pastors and their wives need, we surveyed our pastors last spring. We found their key concerns to be as follows: lack of volunteers (54%), church decline (44%), burnout (40%), and a shifting culture (37%). Coping strategies they reported utilizing to continue in the ministry included talking with a pastoral friend (66%), confiding in their wife (63%), and discussing challenges with a mentor (35%).
When we asked what they thought would be beneficial to them in dealing with these challenges they indicated relevant seminars (47%), recommended helpful books/resources (46%), mutual encouragement support group (44%), coaching (32%), retreats (32%), and pastoral counseling (29%). When asked to rate their interest in a pastor support group on a scale of 1 to 10 the average rating was 7, as was pastors’ retreat. Interest in professional Christian counseling received an average rating of 5.
For those interested in counseling, cost/affordability was most important (67%), followed by confidentiality (54%), competence (42%), proximity (42%), and having an online option (32%). Although we surveyed pastors rather than their wives, the number one resource they believed their wives would desire was a mutual encouragement support group (54%), followed by retreats (49%), recommended helpful books/resources (48%), relevant seminars (38%), and counseling (23%).
As a result, we are seeking to provide new resources for pastors and their wives. This fall we began using Zoom discussion groups that involved looking at resources on these issues (e.g., resilience, church revitalization), as well as outlets where pastors could get together via Zoom to talk (e.g., pastor hangouts). These groups have been led by various pastors. Similarly, Mrs. Carolyn Dwyer is available to talk to interested pastors’ wives, and provide online mutual encouragement groups as a safe place for ministry wives to get together to vent and discuss issues they face.
Lastly, as one of our Refresh resources made available by our partnership with FWBNAM, we began making professional counseling available via Zoom with former Free Will Baptist church planter and licensed professional counselor, Tom Jones. If you are interested in learning more about any of these opportunities, please call 877-767-7659 or email email@example.com.
About the Author: Eddie Moody is executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Find more resources for pastors, churches, and church leaders: nafwb.org.
 Barna Group, April 27, 2022. Pastors Share Top Reasons They’ve Considered Quitting Ministry in the Past Year. Assessed at https://www.barna.com/research/pastors-quitting-ministry