Article: What I Learned Today

On Wednesday, I attended a seminar entitled, “The State of Pastors: Leading in Complexity.” It was the unveiling of a massive study undertaken by the Barna Group with generous funding from Pepperdine University. The Barna Group specifically studies and researches all things church related. If you have never heard of this organization before, they do good work and great research.

I am still going through the data (because it is extensive) but I wanted to share a couple of interesting findings with you.

11,000 pastors were asked how they rate themselves on ministry tasks. Below is the percentage of how they ranked themselves as “excellent” in each task.

  • Preaching and teaching             57%
  • Knowledge of Scripture             48%
  • Applied or practical theology 42%
  • Leading the organization 29%
  • Connecting with the community 29%
  • Managing church finances 28%
  • Counseling or pastoral care 24%
  • Personal spiritual growth 22%
  • Using technology for ministry 18%
  • Managing staff 16%
  • Evangelizing people 10%
  • Mobilizing volunteers 6%

Notice the quick drop off after “applied or practical theology.” Even the highest rated category of “preaching and teaching”- only 57% of pastors rated themselves as excellent. It is clear to me that many pastors do not feel well equipped for the calling they have undertaken.

It was mentioned that pastors today are much more like CEOs than pastors because they are expected to lead an organization and not just preach, teach and visit the sick. As you can see above, not many feel equipped to do that very thing.

One other statistic that caught my eye today: Pastors’ reliability on specific issues, by faith practice. This is what other people believe about the role of pastor.

Topic All US Adults Christians Non-practicing Christian No Faith
How the church can help people live according to God’s will 36% 69% 32% 6%
God’s will for human beings and the world 35% 70% 30% 4%
How relationships work and how to make them better 26% 59% 19% 4%
How people can live out their convictions privately and publicly 23% 54% 15% 3%
How Christianity should inform our political and justice system 17% 40% 11% 3%


People outside of the category “practicing Christians” do not believe pastors have the authority or “reliability” to speak on the issues found in the table. What does that mean? Overall, pastors have less authority/influence outside the church than they used to. That may seem obvious, but that was not the case in our recent past. We are definitely living in a “post-Christian society” much like the earliest disciples of Jesus who were living in a “pre-Christian society.”

This seminar’s title included this tag line, “leading in complexity.”  There is no doubt of that. These are complex times and the role of pastor requires many skills that are not taught in most seminaries. Often there is a lot of on the job training. I am reminded of that when I am asked by newer pastors, “what do I do when…” Yes, I still do a fair share of mentoring.

As I said earlier, I need to process this data before coming to any conclusions but I wanted to share a little of what I experienced today. If you are interested, I will share the published data with anyone (after I have finished going through it).

I am not surprised by anything I heard today, however it is good to see the research.

Even with the challenges, I love what I do and can’t see myself doing anything other than being a pastor.

God bless,
Pr. Ben



6 thoughts on “Article: What I Learned Today

  1. Interesting article and hope we get to hear more about it. By the way we are all happy you chose ministry as your profession and hope you plan to do it for a long time. We are blessed to have you!

  2. You definitely are in the right calling doing what God has planned for you. I appreciate all you and Rachel do for the people of Silicon Valley.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *