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. Four waves of surveys have been conducted on an approximately biennial basis, in 2004/2005 (which we’re now labeling “2005” for simplicity’s sake), 2007, 2009 and 2011.
A full report is now available comparing all four 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 four 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; see also the SPE project’s survey page.
Here is an image of Figure 21 that appears on page 36 of the report (page 42 in the PDF count). The horizontal axis shows the pastoral health scores for 2009 to 2011 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 & 2011 combined. The pattern shows that pastors start with relatively higher health scores, experience a decline in their health scores in the 2.1 to 4.9 year stretch, after which the scores recover as tenure increases above 13 years. The difference between the 2.1 to 4.9 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 4.9 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.