I am not a fan of whining, particularly when it comes from clergy.

But, a group in England has elevated clergy whining to new heights. After surveying 200 vicars, pastors, ministers and leaders in the church, Steve Chalke and his colleagues report that,

The results – although mixed in places – present a pretty bleak picture. An overwhelming majority of respondents (71%) reported feeling stressed and pressured, with 76% claiming to be regularly shouted at by a member of their congregation. Perhaps most alarmingly, almost two-thirds (65%) felt that the pressure of their ministry had put strain on their marriage. Twelve percent described that strain as ‘significant.’ The research also revealed that:

  • 43% of leaders felt their church members have little or no understanding of the pressures they are under.
  • Half of respondents felt that they received very little personal or professional development, although a significant minority of 30% felt that what they did receive was adequate.
  • On average, church leaders are shouted at or spoken to rudely once a week, but it could rise as high as 30 times a month for some. One respondent sorrowfully reported that it happened on a ‘daily basis’


I cannot think of any job in our current climate in which a large percentage of employees would not report “feeling stressed and pressured” as a result of work conditions. Stress and pressure are realities that simply go with the context in which we live.

I was watching the woman operating the check-out in our local grocery store yesterday and observed how “stressed and pressured” she looked. I bet 43% of her customers every day “have little or no understanding of the pressures” she is under. I doubt she receives much “personal or professional development” at her job. I know she is regularly “spoken to rudely,” by impatient customers. And I cannot imagine that she gets much on-the-job appreciation from those she serves.

I do not believe most clergy have cause to be any more dissatisfied, discontent,  or unhappy in their work than the majority of workers.

The tragedy of course is that, of all people, those of us whose job it is to help others open to an awareness of the abundance and beauty of life, should surely be vastly more content than most employees with our lot in life and the work we are privileged to do.

What is the problem? Why do 76% of church leaders complain about their professional lives?

It is tempting to seek answers by pointing a finger at some guilty party out there. But, grown-ups don’t blame others for their internal condition. People with mature spiritual lives (hopefully a description of most church leaders) take responsibility for their inner lives. We do not blame you because we are unhappy.

In response to his own survey Steve Chalke suggests that the well-being of clergy is ultimately

a question of nurturing and sustaining your inner life and spirituality. I know how hard it is, in a busy schedule, to do this, but I’ve slowly learnt that cutting out time for reflection is always a false economy that comes back to bite. As the classic poem ‘I Didn’t Have Time’ reminds us, we are all too busy not to pray!

This is wise advice.

If I want to avoid finding myself in the ranks of clergy-whiners, I need to attend to my inner life. I need to pray. I need to rest and to step aside for a time from the pressures and strains of my work.

Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to

be imitators of me. (I Corinthians 4:16)

As a leader in the church, my first responsibility is to develop a life I might want others to imitate. This is only remotely possible if I begin with a life of prayer.