A 2021 survey conducted by Faithlife revealed that over one in 10 pastors contemplated committing suicide over the past year.
This was a surprising indicator of the increasing stress that pastors faced during the COVID lockdowns, where church leaders were not only faced with restricted services, but as well the need to transition to an online ministry.
In its report entitled, 2021 Pastoral Mental Health Report, Faithlife added that pastors also felt the pressures from the growing “social and political unrest” in society, that was even spilling over into their congregations.
In addition, nearly 35% of the pastors survey reported feeling burned out, with 40% of pastors between the ages of 25-40 reporting they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they’re sensing a burnout in their ministry.
Faithlife CEO, Bob Pritchett, noted:
“We knew it [COVID} took a toll on pastors, but we weren’t sure how it would look. This survey gives us a greater understanding of both the needs of pastors and ways we can help them as they shepherd us.”
It wasn’t all bad news, the survey also revealed that the majority of pastors feel optimistic about the future, with less than a third (29%) expressing concerns.
But it was a bit of a revelation to discover over 10% of pastors had contemplated suicide.
When out in public, people can look so good and on top of the world, but we have no idea what is going on inside. What secrets they have.
And of course, this same reasoning applies to each one of us.
There is a well known statement that you are only as sick as your biggest secrets, because when they are not exposed to the light, secrets have a chance to grow and fester. This often leads to self-loathing and even self-hatred.
One of the most effective ways of exposing our dark secrets is through confession, telling others about your struggles. This breaks the hold these secrets have on us, because often our greatest fear is what others would think about us if they found out what was secretly going on in our lives.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much. (James 5:16 NASV)
The Greek word for sin in this verse is hamartia. Though it is routinely translated as sin, it also includes the idea of a “wrong state of mind or soul,” which is why the King James version translated it a confessing our faults to one another.
So this confession not only includes sin, but wrong thinking (hating ourselves) and emotional stress, such as worry.
The first step to dealing with these secrets is confessing our sins and struggles to others. And this confession, followed by prayer, can start the healing process.