Since 2004, CSR has been supporting the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) in its Sustaining Pastoral Excellence project, which has been funded by grants from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Three waves of surveys have been conducted on an approximately biennial bases, in 2004/2005 (which we're now labeling "2005" for simplicity's sake), 2007 and 2009.
A full report is now available comparing all three survey waves and including statistical models of pastors' self-reported pastoral health (vocational satisfaction and sustainability), leadership skills, and congregational fulfillment of the CRC's mission statement. The report finds statistical stability across all three waves--excellence is indeed being sustained. But we also identify many areas of concern with room for improvement, especially council support through systematic feedback on preaching. The statistical models suggest that programmatic interventions per se have mixed effects, but targeting leadership skill development could stimulate improvements in pastoral health.
The following resources are available from CSR; also see the SPE project's survey page.
UPDATE 12/20: The CRC Newsroom has a story about the survey.
UPDATE 1/15: The Grand Rapids Press has written a story about the survey.
Here is an image of Figure 25 that appears on page 39 of the report (page 46 in the PDF count). The horizontal axis shows the pastoral health scores for 2009 respondents on a scale of 12 items related to pastoral health, such as spousal support, life balance, satisfaction with present pastorate, feelings of isolation in ministry, etc. Each blue dot is an individual pastor’s response from 2009. The pattern shows that pastors start with relatively higher health scores, experience a decline in their health scores in the 2.1 to 5.9 year stretch, after which the scores recover as tenure increases above 11 years. The difference between the 2.1 to 5.9 year dip and its immediate neighboring categories is not statistically significant, but pastors with 11 or more years of tenure in their congregation are significantly healthier than the 2.1 to 5.9 year group. The pattern likely reflects a selection effect—pastors who are relatively unhealthy in their current setting change churches or leave the ministry, leaving only those who are relatively satisfied in place.