Current family status of Protestant ministers...

Research shows pastors may not have a

realistic view of the health of their own families

(Original release date:  July 19, 2005)  Research results that were released in the July/August edition of Facts & Trends magazine show many Protestant ministers in the U.S. see significant problems within the families of clergy members, but usually not when it comes to their own family.

 

The study, conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona among a representative sample of 870 Protestant church ministers nationwide, asked pastors about the health of their family and the pressures associated with being the family of a minister.

 

The vast majority of ministers in the U.S. are currently on their first marriage (80%).  Only 3% have never been married.  Fourteen percent have been divorced (12% have since remarried, while 2% remain unmarried), and 3% have been widowed (2% remarried, while 1% remain unmarried).

 

Just 8% of ministers have no children at all.  Half have grown children but no adolescents, 22% have children under age 18 but not yet any grown children, and 20% have a mixture of adolescents and grown children.

 

Almost nine out of ten evangelical ministers are on their first marriage (88%), with 3% widowed, 8% divorced, and only 1% never married.  There is more diversity – and much more divorce – among mainline Protestant ministers, as 69% are on their first marriage, 7% have never been married, 1% have been widowed, and 23% have gone through a divorce.  (Note that the study was conducted among clergy who are currently senior pastors, so these figures would not include those who left the ministry after a divorce or the death of a spouse.)

 

Fourteen percent of ministers are themselves the child of a minister.  Following a parent into the ministry is equally common among mainline and evangelical pastors.

 

The vast majority of Protestant clergy believe there is additional pressure on pastors’ families.  Ninety-four percent agree with the statement “There is extra pressure being married to a minister,” including 54% who strongly believe this.  Ninety-one percent also agree that “There is extra pressure being the child of a minister,” including 46% who feel this way strongly.  Lutherans and Presbyterians are considerably less likely to perceive strong pressures on their spouse and children than are pastors from other denominational groups.

 

Most also feel that “Churchgoers often expect pastors’ families to be ‘better than’ other people’s families.”  Eighty-eight percent agree with this, including 34% who feel strongly about it.  Southern Baptists and Pentecostals, particularly, feel this kind of pressure on their families.

 

A majority also worry that “Your role as a pastor leaves you with insufficient time for your family.”  Six out of ten pastors agree with this statement, although only 14% agree strongly with it.  Methodists are the ones most likely to have this concern (as well as the denominational group most likely to have divorced ministers).

 

With the concerns ministers have about their own family life, it should be comforting that the vast majority also agree “If there were a crisis in your family, you feel confident you would receive the necessary support from your church.”  Sixty-one percent are strongly confident of getting the support they need, with another 33% somewhat confident of this; only 6% express little or no confidence their church will support them.

 

Ministers were also asked to rate the health of their family relationships, using a scale of 1 (extremely unhealthy) to 5 (extremely healthy).  Most pastors believe they have an essentially healthy family.

 

The average rating pastors give to their relationship with their spouse is 4.3 out of 5, with 47% saying this relationship is extremely healthy.  Pastors who have no children under age 18 are particularly likely to report a healthy spousal relationship (53% call it extremely healthy, compared to 35% among those with adolescents in the household).  Also, evangelical ministers are more likely than mainline ministers to call this relationship extremely healthy (49% to 37%).

 

The health of pastors’ relationships with their children are rated about the same as with their spouse; the average rating is 4.2, and 44% believe their relationships with their children are extremely healthy.  Relationships with grown children tend to be healthier than relationships with adolescent children, at least in the eyes of ministers.  Also, evangelicals are again more likely than mainline ministers to rate their relationships with their children as extremely healthy (46% to 36%); Pentecostals are particularly likely to feel these relationships are extremely healthy, and Lutherans are among the least likely to feel this way.

 

Not as healthy is the amount of time pastors get to spend with their families.  Only 18% feel they spend an extremely healthy amount of time with their spouse (the average rating is 3.6).  Once again, evangelicals feel this area of their lives is healthier than do mainline ministers, and pastors with children in the household have much more serious complaints about not spending enough time with their spouse.

 

Just 10% of ministers feel they spend an extremely healthy amount of time with their children, and the average rating is just 3.4 on a 5-point scale.  Evangelicals again tend to feel this area of their lives is healthier than do mainline ministers.

 

Twenty percent of pastors feel their church has extremely healthy expectations of the minister’s family members, with an average rating of 3.8.

 

Overall, the average pastor put the health of his or her family unit at a 4 on the scale.  Twenty-six percent feel their family unit is extremely healthy overall, while another 54% rate the health of their family at a 4.

 

Experiencing divorce apparently has very little impact on how pastors feel about these issues.  Divorced pastors – the vast majority of whom have remarried – have attitudes and ratings of their current family health which are very similar to those of ministers who have not gone through a divorce.

 

One of the most interesting – and puzzling – findings in this study is that while pastors tend to feel pretty good about the health of their own family, they have significant worries about the health of other ministers’ families.  While the average rating they give to their own family health is a 4, the average they give to the health of pastors’ families throughout their denomination is just a 3.2.  While eight out of ten rate the health of their own family at a 4 or a 5 on the scale, just three out of ten rate the health of pastors’ families in their denomination at a 4 or a 5.  Methodists and Southern Baptists are among the most concerned about the health of ministers’ families in their denomination.

 

Further, the average minister estimates that almost one out of every four pastors he or she knows is having significant problems with a child, and that one out of every five fellow pastors is having significant marriage problems.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted the difference between how pastors see their own family health and how they see the health of other clergy families.  “Ministers apparently have a much more optimistic view of their own family than they do of the families of other ministers,” Sellers stated.  “When one out of every twenty ministers feels his or her own family unit is unhealthy, but one out of every seven ministers believes the family units of others in their denomination are unhealthy, there’s a disconnect.”

 

Sellers added, “One of these perspectives probably is wrong – either things are not as bad with other ministers’ families as the typical pastor believes, or things are not as healthy with their own family as the typical pastor believes.  Protestant clergy in the U.S. need to take a careful look at whether they have too much optimism about their own family situation, or too much pessimism about the situations of others.”

 

Sellers also advised that it would be unwise to figure the small proportion of pastors reporting very unhealthy family situations means all is well among the clergy.  “Even though only five percent of pastors report a very unhealthy relationship with their spouse, that means there are over ten thousand individual pastors with serious marital problems right now.  In fact, the study projects that around 20,000 senior pastors nationwide – to say nothing of associate ministers or other staff in Protestant churches, nor of those who have left the ministry because of these issues – recognize that they have serious family problems right now.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 870 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

The family is the nucleus of civilization.

William Durant, American Historian

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

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Current family status of Protestant ministers, by denominational group...

Attitudes about family

Attitudes about family, by denominational group

Perceived health of pastors’ own families

Perceived health of pastors’ own families, by denominational group

 

Perceived Health of Family

 

All

Age

<45

Age
45-59

Age
60+

Have

Kids <18

No Kids <18

Your relationship with your spouse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

47%

39%

46%

61%

35%

53%

     4

39

44

39

29

48

35

     3

9

13

10

4

12

7

     2

3

3

2

4

3

3

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

2

1

2

3

2

2

Your relationship with your children:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

44

42

43

48

36

45

     4

42

47

42

37

50

40

     3

12

10

13

10

12

12

     2

1

--

1

2

1

2

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

2

1

1

3

1

2

The amount of time you get to spend with your spouse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

18

8

16

35

6

23

     4

40

43

41

34

44

42

     3

32

37

34

19

38

26

     2

9

11

9

9

10

8

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

1

1

2

1

1

The amount of time you get to spend with your children:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

10

12

9

12

8

9

     4

36

42

33

37

41

31

     3

41

38

44

35

38

44

     2

10

6

12

10

10

12

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

3

3

2

5

2

4

The overall health of your family unit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

26

22

26

27

18

29

     4

54

59

54

50

58

51

     3

15

14

16

14

20

15

     2

4

3

3

8

3

3

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

2

1

--

1

1

The expectations your church has of your family members:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

20

20

18

30

16

21

     4

42

43

44

36

46

44

     3

31

31

32

28

30

29

     2

5

5

6

5

7

6

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

1

1

1

1

1

The health of pastors’ families in your denomination:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

3

2

2

8

2

5

     4

26

25

24

38

25

27

     3

57

54

60

47

52

56

     2

13

17

12

7

20

11

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

1

1

--

2

1

 

Current Family Status

 

All

Age
<45

Age
45 - 59

Age
60+

 

Mainline

 

Evangelical

Personal marital status:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     single, never married

3%

6%

2%

2%

7%

1%

     married (first marriage)

80

92

79

72

69

88

     divorced (not remarried)

2

--

3

3

5

1

     divorced and remarried

12

2

15

14

18

7

     widowed (not remarried)

1

--

--

5

1

1

     widowed and remarried

2

--

2

4

--

2

Personal children status:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     no children of any age

8

13

5

7

14

4

     only children under 18

22

69

10

--

21

25

     only children 18 or older

50

4

57

85

49

50

     children under 18 and 18+

20

14

28

7

16

20

 

Current Family Status

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All

Others

Personal marital status:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     single, never married

--

3%

2%

4%

2%

4%

6%

     married (first marriage)

91%

82

67

78

83

78

77

     divorced (not remarried)

--

--

5

4

3

2

4

     divorced and remarried

8

12

21

12

8

13

11

     widowed (not remarried)

--

--

2

1

2

2

--

     widowed and remarried

--

3

2

--

3

2

2

Personal children status:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     no children of any age

6

7

6

11

4

9

14

     only children under 18

22

21

19

18

29

30

21

     only children 18 or older

54

43

63

55

50

48

46

     children under 18 and 18+

19

29

12

16

17

13

19

 

Attitudes about Family

 

All

Age
<45

Age
45 - 59

Age
60+

Have

Kids <18

No Kids <18

There is extra pressure being married to a minister:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

54%

50%

58%

46%

57%

52%

     agree somewhat

40

47

35

41

39

41

     disagree somewhat

4

2

4

6

3

5

     disagree strongly

2

1

2

7

1

2

There is extra pressure being the child of a minister:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

46

46

49

40

48

45

     agree somewhat

45

46

44

44

45

47

     disagree somewhat

7

6

6

10

7

6

     disagree strongly

2

1

1

6

1

2

If there were a crisis in your family, you feel confident you

   would receive the necessary support from your church:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

61

63

59

63

61

59

     agree somewhat

33

32

34

32

31

35

     disagree somewhat

4

4

5

2

6

4

     disagree strongly

2

--

2

4

2

2

Your role as a pastor leaves you with insufficient time for your family:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

14

14

13

15

13

16

     agree somewhat

46

43

48

44

49

45

     disagree somewhat

32

38

32

23

33

29

     disagree strongly

9

6

6

18

4

10

Churchgoers often expect pastors’ families 

   to be “better than” other people’s families:

  

  

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

34

31

35

32

33

36

     agree somewhat

54

54

53

56

53

53

     disagree somewhat

10

12

10

9

12

10

     disagree strongly

2

3

2

2

2

2

 

Attitudes about Family

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All

Others

There is extra pressure being

   married to a minister:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

66%

54%

61%

34%

62%

43%

49%

     agree somewhat

32

3

32

55

35

53

44

     disagree somewhat

2

3

5

8

1

4

6

     disagree strongly

1

5

2

2

2

--

2

There is extra pressure being

   the child of a minister:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

57

50

40

28

60

37

43

     agree somewhat

38

37

48

62

39

59

48

     disagree somewhat

4

10

7

8

1

4

7

     disagree strongly

--

4

5

1

1

--

2

If there were a crisis in your family, you

   feel confident you would receive the

   necessary support from your church:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

57

56

60

50

68

60

67

     agree somewhat

36

42

31

38

24

31

26

     disagree somewhat

6

2

5

7

6

8

5

     disagree strongly

2

--

3

6

2

2

2

Your role as a pastor leaves you with

   insufficient time for your family:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

15

6

20

18

19

11

12

     agree somewhat

49

42

58

40

41

53

46

     disagree somewhat

31

42

12

33

34

34

30

     disagree strongly

5

10

11

8

5

2

13

Churchgoers often expect pastors’ families

   to be “better than” other people’s families:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     agree strongly

46

27

27

30

44

23

34

     agree somewhat

46

59

59

49

49

59

52

     disagree somewhat

7

10

10

17

7

14

13

     disagree strongly

1

4

4

3

--

4

2

 

Perceived Health of Family

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All

Others

Your relationship with your spouse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

49%

54%

34%

37%

56%

36%

48%

     4

42

32

50

47

26

40

38

     3

6

8

13

11

14

20

7

     2

2

4

2

4

1

4

3

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

2

1

1

4

--

4

Your relationship with your children:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

43

46

38

29

60

42

40

     4

44

40

47

58

28

40

45

     3

12

12

13

8

11

19

10

     2

--

1

--

4

1

--

2

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

2

2

1

1

--

3

The amount of time you get

   to spend with your spouse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

16

24

12

13

20

15

17

     4

46

34

32

35

42

40

43

     3

29

34

40

43

24

31

27

     2

8

8

14

8

12

14

12

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

2

--

3

1

2

--

2

The amount of time you get

   to spend with your children:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

9

14

10

7

13

15

8

     4

34

37

23

33

45

26

38

     3

45

40

51

38

25

43

40

     2

11

8

13

18

10

14

12

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

2

1

4

4

8

2

3

The overall health of your family unit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

26

28

20

16

29

21

32

     4

54

53

50

57

53

52

52

     3

18

15

19

24

8

25

12

     2

2

3

11

1

7

2

4

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

--

1

1

1

2

--

--

The expectations your church

   has of your family members:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

14

22

27

12

23

17

20

     4

50

34

35

42

45

50

47

     3

26

43

31

35

24

27

26

     2

8

2

5

10

7

4

7

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

2

--

2

1

1

2

--

The health of pastors’ families

   in your denomination:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5 (extremely healthy)

4

4

--

2

4

2

6

     4

20

18

21

31

42

31

20

     3

52

72

49

52

44

60

63

     2

23

6

28

13

9

6

8

     1 (extremely unhealthy)

1

--

3

2

--

--

3