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The following are the results of the 2015 Pastor Survey conducted by ExPastors.com. I think you’ll find them very insightful. I also encourage you to participate in the 2016 Pastor Survey, which is currently going on and has new and improved questions to help us collect more data to better serve the ExPastors community. Please know these surveys are totally anonymous.

We wished to concern ourselves with getting accurate information on issues ranging from burnout and finances, to work hours and the demands on families With this objective in mind, we also chose to make our survey confidential and allow the option to answer basic demographic questions, the only exception being the initial question of whether the person filling out the survey was or was not currently serving in the role of pastor.

The 2015 Pastors Survey

Of the following, which is most accurate:
I am a pastor (170 / 62%)
I am an ex-pastor (89 / 32%)
I stepped away from the pastorate but am now serving as pastor again (16 / 6%)

At any time during your pastorate, have you doubted your call to ministry?
Yes (165 / 60%)
No (110 / 40%)

Would you consider yourself overworked?
Yes (166 / 60%)
No (109 / 40%)

At times, do you feel unable to meet the demands of the job?
Yes (222 / 81%)
No (53 / 19%)

Do you feel there are/were unrealistic demands or unwritten expectations of you and your family?
Yes (225 / 82%)
No (50 / 18%)

Have you ever considered leaving the ministry?
Yes (234 / 85%)
No (41 / 15%)

Do you constantly fight depression?
No (146 / 53%)
Yes (129 / 47%)

Do you consider yourself lonely?
Yes (174 / 63%)
No (101 / 37%)

Would you consider yourself having experienced burnout?
Yes (212 / 77%)
No (63 / 23%)

Do you have anyone you consider a close friend or someone you can share your struggles or burdens with?
Yes (207 / 75%)
No (68 / 25%)

Have you or a family member experienced a conflict with a church member within the last month?
No (158 / 57%)
Yes (117 / 43%)

What is the size of your church?
40-200 (147 / 55%)
200-450 (41 / 15%)
400-800 (28 /10%)
Below 40 (27 /10%)
800-2000 (21 /8%)
2000+ (4 /1%)

Next Step

Please fill out the 2016 Pastor Survey so that ExPastors.com may better serve you. Thanks.

graceGRACE. It’s my favorite word. As a matter of fact, I named my first-born child Grace. I often tell her how special her name is. I know she gets tired of hearing it (or maybe she secretly loves it), but I point out every song, sermon, or movie that mentions the word “grace.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently became the Executive Director of ExPastors.com. We have a mission statement that reads as follows: We seek to be a place of help, healing, and hope for ex-pastors, pastors, and church leaders. We do this by hearing their stories, connecting them with people and resources, and focusing on spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health.

When Tullian Tchividjian reached out to us and I talked with him on the phone, I heard a man that had committed a sin (a serious sin before God and that is a hot-button for many people). I heard a man that had experienced brokenness, shame, loneliness, deep and dark sadness, and regret over what he had done to his family, and how he let his church and followers down.

As a matter of fact, Tullian was in such a dark place of sadness, regret, loneliness, anger, and frustration that he set out to take his life. He even wrote a suicide note that he shared in the piece we published. You can read it here.

Why did we share his piece? I shared today on ExPastors.com, we didn’t share it because he had “arrived,” or we thought he was “fully restored,” or that we believed he was “ready to re-enter ministry.” We don’t know any of that – that’s between him and God. He did, however, address those questions and accusations with RNS in this piece. A while back, when writing about Tullian, Charisma News wrote the following:

“Weak areas such as drugs, alcohol, pain meds, sex, anger, marriage issues, and so on are ‘opportune times’ for the enemy to strike. We must expose these areas through repentance, and install safeguards and accountability.”

I agree. Friends, I’ve been in ministry for over two decades and I know and have experienced the attacks, traps, temptations, and lies of the enemy. I urge you to pray for pastors around the world. And I challenge you to sincerely pray for pastors who have fallen (like Tullian), been fired for addiction (like Perry Noble), and burned out (like Pete Wilson).

We, as a ministry, and myself personally, took a ton of heat, bullets, and accusations by many upset and angry people. Did they have a right to be upset and angry? I don’t know. I just know that when it comes to truth and grace, I always lean towards grace. A therapist, professor and author that I respect said the same thing. Only Jesus perfectly embodies truth and grace equally. He is 100% truth and 100% grace. We all lean one way or the other.

On Wednesday night, after we and I took a beating on our website and on social media, I looked my daughter Grace in the eyes, with tears in my eyes and said, “You know how special your name is to me, right?” She said, “Yes.” I told her about the personal attacks I had received for showing Tullian grace. And I reminded her:

“Grace is unmerited favor. You can’t earn grace (thank God). We don’t receive grace because we’re perfect, deserve it, or have it all together. Grace is freely offered by God to us and we should freely offer it to others.”

Tullian’s grandfather, Billy Graham, wrote about grace and the unmerited favor of God here. I encourage you to read it. You can read more about what we, at ExPastors, believe and are about here.

So, Thursday after being emotionally drained and exhausted from the constant attacks on our website, social media, and people that targetted me personally and questioned my integrity, I went to see my therapist for our weekly appointment. Yes, I see a counselor. Yes, I believe strongly in therapy. And I’ve writen and spoke out about it frequently. I think every pastor should see a therapist. One of the lies and traps of the enemy is isolation. If you feel alone and have no one to talk to, you will fall (or take your life), and be another statistic.

So, last week I met with my therapist. He said, “What would you like to talk about today?” I said, “I have a lot to talk about, express, get off my chest, and get some counsel on.” So, I told him about my week and the reason we published Tullian’s piece. I told him that many pastors commit suicide each year. In an article by Charisma News, they wrote: “It’s this thought process that could have caused both Seth Oiler and Isaac Hunter to take their own lives after being caught in affairs.” God help us!

My therapist told me of another local therapist that used to be a Lutheran minister. He said this former minister is now a practicing counselor, who’s whole practice is dedicated to helping former pastors. Believe me, I will be reaching out to this counselor and getting to know him.

I told my therapist (and this is the God’s honest truth) that when I woke up Wednesday morning (after we posted Tullian’s piece on Tuesday), the first thought in mind before I even sat up and put my feet on the ground was:

JUST ONE. Yes, we took a lot of heat and bullets for posting the article, but if just one pastor read Tullian’s story of deep, dark depression that led him to consider taking his own life. If just one pastor decided to not take his life and seek help so they can keep on living – it was worth it all. 

My therapist encouraged me by reminding me of the “Starfish story.” You’ve probably heard it. Ever heard of the man walking along the beach and picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water so they wouldn’t die? Someone mocked him because there was no way he could make a difference and save every starfish. The man picked up a starfish, threw it in the water and said something like, “It made a difference to that one.”

Read my article on ExPastors.com entitled, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. This is a Safe Place.” In the article I write, “We reach all kinds of pastors and ex-pastors: broken, hurt, wounded, mad, angry at God, angry at the Church, confused, on the verge of suicide (like Tullian Tchividjian shared), in transition, now in lay leadership, pastors who have burned out and are ready to quit, pastors who have resigned and now work a job outside the local church, pastors who were fired, pastors who were laid off due to finances or circumstances out of their control – all kinds of pastors and church leaders.

As my friend Pete Wilson once said, “It’s okay not to be okay.” And I would add, “This is a safe place. All are welcome here. Whether you like us or not, trust us or not, love us or hate us, agree with us or not, or are just checking us out – we welcome you.

And like it or not, Tullian is the very definition of an ex-pastor. For every mega-church pastor, author and/or conference speaker that finds themselves in a similar situation, there are hundreds or thousands of ex-pastors and struggling pastors that are hurting and/or burned out – they just pastor smaller churches and don’t have the platform that Tullian has. And to you, my friend, I also say, “This is a safe place.””

So, if you stumbled across this blog post and God has stirred something in your soul. If you’re a current or ex-pastor, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your story to us. It doesn’t matter if you pastor a church of 10 people, 100, or a 1000. We’re in this together and we hope to create a community where people can help one another get through tough seasons of ministry and life. If you’re at the end of your rope and need of help, contact us. We want to connect you with resources and other pastors.

Browse the site. Read through our articles. Maybe you’ll find something helpful and timely. Check out our Resources page and if you have a recommended resource, email us. Check the site often. Subscribe to our newsletter to get weekly email updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with video content, including our new podcast (coming soon). FYI – When you subscribe to the ExPastors.com newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of our Founder, Bo Lane’s best-selling book Why Pastors Quit.

Let’s be people known for and characterized by GRACE. That’s my story and my personal mission. I’m a grace dealer and I’m going to keep on dishing it out. God bless you pastors as you serve the Church. Keep pressing on. Don’t give up! You’re not alone.

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I became familiar with ExPastors.com and their Founder, Bo Lane, a couple of years ago. I’ve stayed in touch with Bo ever since. Over the past year, I’ve considered being more involved. Over the last month, I’ve now taken over as Executive Director of ExPastors.com.

I encourage you to get to know us. We’re not a place for people to bash the Church. We are a ministry that offers help, healing and hope to ex-pastors (for whatever reason they find themselves there), current pastors and church leaders.

We want to see all pastors be healthy physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

I encourage you to browse the website and its articles. See if there’s something there that might educate or encourage you in the season of life you find yourself.

This week (Tuesday) we have a very special guest post by an ex-pastor that hasn’t spoken out for over 2 years. Be sure to keep an eye on us and our articles.

You can do this by signing up for our newsletter, following us on Twitter, and subscribing to our YouTube channel (we are about to launch a new podcast). When you sign up for our newsletter, you will receive a FREE copy of Why Pastors Quit – a must read.

Read the newest post that is up there now. Maybe it will encourage you and offer you hope.

We get unbelievable emails from pastors and ex-pastors from around the world. Join our community and please know: If you’re tired, hurt/wounded, frustrated, burnt out, thinking about taking your life, depressed, anxious – whatever the enemy is attacking you with – I’m here for you. We’re here for you. You have people that care for you and want to help you.

God’s not finished with you. Neither are we. Don’t give up!

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I’m so thankful for all the support and love shown the past week for my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Strange Leadership has been a bestseller on Amazon and is doing great in the Church Leadership category. I’m very excited to see how God uses this book to impact leaders.

I asked a good friend of mine (Jay Thompson) to write a Team Discussion Guide for the book that we would give away to leaders (you can get it on the book website for free). Jay is great at writing discussion questions for small groups and I knew he’d be another great set of eyes and ideas to write the questions for the Team Discussion Guide. He did an amazing job and provided a great resource for leaders.

I was talking with Jay on the phone the other day and he said, “Greg this is not the kind of book you read in one sitting. It’s way too comprehensive and has way too many ideas to ponder and think through. You have to take it a chapter at a time and slowly work your way through the book.” I agree. By the way, that’s why I wanted a Team Discussion Guide. I knew leadership teams would need to slowly go through the book a chapter at a time.

I got a message on Twitter the other day from a pastor who said he was going to read a chapter a day and write a review in about 45 days. That’s great. I’m writing this post to encourage you to go at your own pace and allow God to speak to you through the book.

Strange Leadership has been called “an encyclopedia on innovation.” I think that describes the book well. Nobody would sit down and read straight though an encyclopedia. You would take your time and savor each section or chapter. It may seem strange, but that goes with the territory.

Also, please note: You must read the Introduction of the book – it’s essential. Some say it’s the best chapter of the entire book. This is a book that you need to read completely – the Preface, the Introduction, all 40 chapters and then the Conclusion. They all work together to create an environment where God can speak to you. It may take you a while to complete it, but it will be worth it in the end.

If you haven’t got your copy of the book yet, go here to get it. Thanks and I pray God uses this book to lead you into new ways of doing ministry. Be strange!

3D-Strange-Leadership

[The following is a brief excerpt from one chapter of my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Go to the book’s website for more info: http://strangeleadership.com/.]

My top two spiritual gifts are leadership and administration, so the subject of organization is something I love and gravitate toward. If you have the spiritual gift of administration, you love structure, systems, processes, and org charts. If you don’t, those things probably drive you crazy. Regardless of your primary gifting, it helps to approach leadership with a thirty-thousand foot view and try to see the big picture of what’s going on in your organization. The way the body of Christ works is if this is difficult for you, surround yourself with other leaders who this is natural for.

In my travels, speaking, consulting, and conversations with leaders of all types, I’ve discovered a major reason they are not getting the results they desire is due to a system designed to give them the exact result they’re getting. If your system is designed to fail, you will fail every time. If your organization’s culture is one of creativity, innovation, trust, and you have a healthy system in place, there is no limit to what you as a team can accomplish (through the Holy Spirit). Do you think the Bible cares about organization? I do. Read the story of Moses and his father-in-law in Exodus 18:13-26.

I thank God for including the story of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. In this story, we see Moses was a man with flaws and had made a poor decision on how to best go about judging the people. Maybe he didn’t have the gift of leadership or administration. He did, however, have the wisdom to listen to someone who did, and the Bible tells us this gave Moses new strength to carry out whatever God commanded him. The people also flourished in their settings. It was a win-win.

Greg Atkinson

The book The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw has some great thoughts on this as well. I could easily quote chapters of it for you, but I’ll just encourage you to read it.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.
Luke 6:43 (NIV)

It’s crucial to recognize your system could be choking the life, health, creativity and innovation out of your organization. My encouragement to you is to have someone with the gift of administration evaluate your systems. This could be someone in your church (maybe a business leader who will volunteer), a gifted staff member, or an outside consultant who can come in and look at the big picture.

One Scripture I’ve found myself quoting to church leaders often is when Jesus told his disciples to be “wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16). In The Message, verse 16 reads, “be as cunning as a snake.” I am often referring to this verse when I’m engaged in helping an organization with strategic planning and overall strategy.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with strategy when it comes to church leadership. Of course we need to always be sensitive and open to the Spirit’s leading and sudden change, but God can be with us in the strategy and planning of any organization. So as you set up your systems, structure, and processes, I would suggest two thoughts: keep it simple and keep it fluid or flexible.

Neil Cole, director of Church Multiplication Associates said, “Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian population” (Cultivating a Life for God, page 10). Albert Einstein said, “Out of complexity, find simplicity.” I agree. You might have seventy-five staff members on your team, but this doesn’t mean you can’t approach your structure and processes in such a way in which they are simple to share, quote, and move people through. Did you know research strongly backs this principle?

The book Simple Church is full of thoroughly researched and proven principles. I want to strongly encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. In Simple Church, the authors, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, tell us that “in general, simple churches are growing and vibrant. Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom … Conversely, complex churches are struggling and anemic. Churches without a process or with a complicated process for making disciples are floundering. As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive. Our research shows that these churches are not growing.” (Simple Church, page 14).

*** Also be sure to download the FREE Team Discussion Guide on the book’s website and go through the book with your entire leadership team.

 

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1. Communicate for change. Your goal as a pastor is to take people from where they are to somewhere different. This is communicating for change. Andy Stanley will talk about how he crafts messages for “life change” rather than just to communicate information and he’ll also explain how to create clarity and focus around your message at the Preach Better Sermons FREE online event on April 29th.

2. Attract people to God’s word, not you. Lysa TerKeurst knows how to match the reality of God’s word with the struggles of her audience. She’ll explain how she does this, as well as how to help more people remember your message by using sticky statements and memorable points at the Preach Better Sermons event.

3. Preach from a passion for people and an urgency of the Gospel. Judah Smith talks about how preaching with the urgency of the Gospel is foundational to effective preaching. He’ll also share how to deal with discouragement as a pastor at Preach Better Sermons.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher.  Sign up for the free online conference.  Here are the details:

Date:  April 29th, 2014
Time:  1pm – 4pm EDT
Speakers:  Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, Lysa TerKeurst, Judah Smith, Herbert Cooper, Michael Hyatt, Andy Andrews, Derwin Gray, & Carl Lentz.
Registration:  Free sign up at PreachBetterSermons.com

I was honored to be a guest on my friend DJ Chuang’s Social Media Church Podcast this past Tuesday. We did a special live show to coincide with the special Pre-Release Party of my new book Strange Leadership, which has been in the Top Ten of the Church Leadership category on Amazon ever since Tuesday! Here are the show notes:

Listen to the wide span of insights from Greg Atkinson – pastor, consultant, and Editor of Christian Media Magazine. He’s also author of a new book, Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Topics we covered include: how to encourage church leaders that are reluctant about using social media, how to use social media wisely instead of wasting time, evaluating the effectiveness of a church’s social media presence, and much more! This episode of Social Media Church was recorded before a live online audience via Google+ Hangout on Air. For more on the Social Media Church Podcast and to subscribe, go HERE.

Show Notes

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This Tuesday, April 15th (Tax Day), some friends of mine are throwing a Pre-Release Party for my new book Strange Leadership. We’ll be doing some fun stuff, giving away cool stuff and I’ll be a guest on a couple of live podcasts talking with church leaders about the book. I don’t want you to miss out on a thing, so go HERE to join the Pre-Release Party. Join in the fun and thanks for your support!

To read more details about the book and look around the book website, go here: StrangeLeadership.com

Monday, be sure to check out my first video podcast about the book on the Pastor Fury Podcast. Go here to check it out: http://armansheffey.com/iTunes 

My friend Chad Hunt, from The Barjona Company, has some great ideas for how to leverage Christmas this year for your church. Watch this video to get some great insight, advice and ideas.

leveraging from TheBarjonaCompany on Vimeo.

typhoon

Our world has watched in horror and shock as the Philippines was devastated by a typhoon. All forms of media have been buzzing with up-to-date news coverage and stories of search, rescue, survival, and death.

I’ve been amazed at the use of social media to help bring aid and relief to victims. Numerous sources have written about and commented on the use of social media to rally people and retain resources to help in time of need.

From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, people and organizations are getting the word out about how to bring help and order to what seems like chaos.

According to TechCrunch, relief efforts are now underway, including one by the Geeklist Corps of Developers, which is recruiting coders, product managers and other tech experts from around the world to build tools that will help coordinate rescue efforts, enable crisis communication and make sure emergency supplies and food are quickly distributed to areas in need.

The initiative is working with the government of the Philippines to deploy and start using finished projects. Kat Borlongan, the initiative’s coordinator, tells me that they are searching for designers, developers, product managers and social media experts to help out.

So people are employing and utilizing social media experts to bring help and aid, but even ordinary people are taking to their own initiatives to bring relief. Check out the following story:

“We are just doing as much as we can and I put a post on Facebook. I said: ‘Can you help? I am going up there with the car.’ So I got a lot of donations from my friends and family,” said Simon Timmins, as he made his delivery. “I got about 1,000 pounds so I have got enough for at least two trips up here. This is the first trip and I will be coming up again later in the week.” This is just an example of one person who is trying to make a difference and using a simple tool like Facebook to collect supplies and donations.

Patrick Meier is director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute in Qatar. He develops tools, like the just launched website MicroMappers, that quickly sort through online data, from tweets to uploaded photos, and then display the information on satellite maps. Aid agencies can view the maps, which change in real time based on data coming in, and then use that information to help plan their relief efforts.

When National Geographic asked how they are mobilizing to help victims of the typhoon? Meier answerd, “We launched MicroMappers in order to very quickly tag tensof thousands of tweets (and soon pictures) coming out of the Philippines. More specifically, and at the UN’s request, we are asking volunteers from all around the world to tag tweets if they are related to “requests for help,” “infrastructure damage,” and “displaced populations.””

We’re doing this entirely online via the Digital Humanitarian Network and anyone can volunteer, no prior training or experience required. You can learn more about the efforts at MicroMappers.com.

When asked about their specific goals for crisis mapping amid the typhoon’s aftermath, he said, “Our goal is to rapidly map the needs and damage resulting from Typhoon Yolanda so that our UN colleagues can respond more quickly with their relief efforts.”

This is the good of social media, friends. We saw this with Hurricane Sandy, and in Chile, Japan, Iran and Haiti. People took to social media to mobilize, coordinate, raise support, communicate and raise awareness – and bottom-line, make a difference.

This is why we champion and focus so much on social media here at CMM and this is a great example that technology is not a waste of time. God has given us these amazing tools to communicate with others and who knows, maybe even save a life.