CNLP 125: David Kinnaman on the Clergy Crisis and State of Pastors Today

How are pastors really doing? Why are fewer and fewer people going into ministry? What are the danger signs for pastors today for their soul, their family and their future?

Barna Group President David Kinnaman explains the findings behind one of the largest studies of Pastors in America ever conducted. Not everything is good, but there’s hope.

Welcome to Episode 125 of the podcast.


Guest Links: David Kinnaman

David on Episode 24

David on Episode 82

The Barna Group

State of the Pastors Report

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme

Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith 

unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why it Matters

David Kinnaman on Facebook

David Kinnaman on Twitter 

Links Mentioned

Jeff Brodie on Episode 110

Canadian Church Leaders Conference: Barrie, Ontario; June 8th – 10th

ReThink Leadership: Atlanta, Georgia; April 26th – 28th

TrainedUp Leadership

The Canadian Church Leaders Podcast

3 Insights from This Episode

David Kinnaman and The Barna Group took on a massive, 3 year, in-depth research project called The State of Pastors. David is on the show to go over some of the key findings from the report. Through the data, there’s an overarching theme: Resilience. Resilience in self-leadership, in church leadership and in cultural leadership.

1. Self-Leadership

Resilience in self-leadership is about who you are and who you’re becoming as a leader.

How are you doing in your family? Relationships? Finances? Self-leadership is being a resilient person who keeps moving forward in the face of adversity. The data in The State of Pastors found that, on average, most Pastors have happy home lives and healthy marriages. Which is great news. However, the study also found that 1/3 of Pastors were at moderate to high risk of total burnout and about 60% of Pastors were at moderate risk for spiritual burnout.

2. Church Leadership

Resilience in church leadership is the embracing teams and continually remembering that we can’t do Gospel-centered ministry alone.

The State of Pastors found that the Pastors who feel more satisfied in their work are the ones who think of themselves as leaders instead of managers and as entrepreneurs instead of administrators. This allows them to experience intentionality in their work. This also helps explain why only 10% of Pastors prefer developing other leaders over preaching and teaching.

Another interesting piece of data from the report was that the average age of Pastors is rising. 25 years ago, the average Senior Pastor was in their mid-40s, today they’re in the mid-50s. This data brings up some questions the church community needs to think about: Why aren’t younger people joining ministry? Why are people joining ministry at an older age? Where is an older pastor’s seat at the table?

No matter where your church is, growing or dying—Jesus loves you, and that will never change. God shapes us more through failure than he does through success.

3. Cultural Leadership 

Resilience in a church of cultural complexity is knowing that Jesus told us that the gates of hell won’t prevail against us. 

We’re in a culture of distraction. We’re also in a time of deep cultural complexity. But what if the Gospel gets stronger when culture becomes more difficult for Christians?

Remember this: The body of Christ needs each other. We need younger leaders, older leaders, racially-diverse leaders and leaders of difference socioeconomic statuses. We’re all the same in Christ.

Quotes from This Episode

Get Your Life and Leadership Back!

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Why would you ever take the High Impact Leader course? Well, do you ever find yourself struggling to get it all done? Constant interruptions and distractions keep you from getting your most important priorities accomplished. In addition, work keeps bleeding into family time.

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Getting your most important priorities done early in the week, every week.

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Actually being OFF when you have a day off.

Imagine getting your life and leadership back. That’s what the High Impact Leader is designed to help you do.

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Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Mike Bonem

Not all of us are senior leaders. So what happens when that’s you? Do you have to be the #1 leader to make an impact. Mike Bonem explains how to lead up to your senior leader, and discussed the strategies and principles that help second chair leaders thrive

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 126.

CNLP 125: David Kinnaman on the Clergy Crisis and State of Pastors Today


  1. A Amos Love on March 21, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Hi Fred

    You write…
    “Leadership skills are implied throughout scripture.”

    Since “leadership” is NOT mentioned in the Bible – How about…

    Servant-ship skills are implied throughout scripture…
    For one of **His Disciples?**

    Jesus, as man, humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation…
    And took on the “Form of a Servant.” Phil 2:7-8.

    Humble – a modest, or low estimate of ones own importance.

    Know many? Any? in “church leadership?” “christian leadership?”
    Senior Pastors? Lead Pastors? Elders? Overseers? Reverends? Clergy?
    Who have a modest, or low estimate of their own importance?

    And, will teach and practice these eleven Servant-ship skills?
    These every day traits, responsibilities, for ALL **His Disciples?**

    As you read, ask yourself…
    Who do you know, in leadership, who teach and practice…
    1 – NOT lording it over “God’s heritage?” 1 Pet 5:3 KJV
    2 – Operating in “Lowliness of mind?” Phil 2:3 KJV
    3 – Esteeming others “better” than themselves? Phil 2:3 KJV
    4 – Submitting “One to Another?” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    5 – Prefering others before themselves? Rom 12:10 KJV
    6 – By love “Serve one another?” Gal 5:13 KJV
    7 – Laying down their lives for the brethren? 1 John 3:16 KJV
    8 – NOT speaking of themselves, seeking their own glory? Jn 7:18 KJV
    9 – NOT “Exercising Authority” like the Gentiles?” Mark 10:42-43. KJV
    10 – NOT giving themselves “Flattering Titles?” Job 32:21-22 KJV

    11 – Being clothed with humility? 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    11 – Humility – a modest, or low estimate of ones own importance.

    In my experience, the number of folks who call themselves, “church leaders,” “christian leaders,” Who actually teach, and practice these 11 – Who teach, and practice, “Submitting one to another” – Who teach, and practice, “NOT speaking of themselves, NOT seeking their own glory.” Who teach, and practice, “NOT Exercising Authority” like the Gentiles. Who are “Clothed with humility” haveing “a modest or low estimate of their own importance,”

    Is Quite Small… 😉

    And other sheep I have, which are NOT of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • Fred Middel on March 22, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      Hmmm…I know a lot that both teach and practice all that. I’m sorry you haven’t come across it.

  2. Fred Middel on March 20, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    I posted this on the Facebook page, but thought I’d duplicate it here:

    I find that some young leaders are hesitant to step into leadership roles when sometimes the role is defined by inflexible older paradigms. Further, many younger leaders are less and less prepared for ministry, as Bible colleges have to “aim lower” in terms of biblical literacy. On the other side, older leaders are frustrated with unprepared graduates…but for some reason are unwilling to mentor younger leaders into their potential. Now add financial issues into the mix–older pastors working longer because they’re not able to retire and younger pastors facing monumental school debt and forbidding housing costs but being offered “ministry wages.”

    I posted while still listening, and realize some of this has been addressed in the podcast

  3. A Amos Love on February 1, 2017 at 11:36 am


    How are folks to be like those in Berea? Who…
    “…searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so?”
    Acts 17:10-11 KJV

    If these things… 3 Insights…

    1. Self-Leadership
    2. Church Leadership
    3. Cultural Leadership

    Are NOT in the Scriptures?


    It was after I left “The Religious System” of today…
    Ripped up those precious papers… Yes – I was ordained…
    And walked away from Church Leadership…

    That I realized Isaiah, had prophesied about my “Leadership skills.”
    And the “Leadership skills” of todays “Church Leaders.”

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee*
    cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *The Leaders* of this people
    cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    • Fred Middel on March 20, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Although the Berean church is extolled in contrast to the church of Thessalonika, nowhere is the it established as THE paradigm which must be emulated. Leadership skills are implied throughout scripture. Also, 1 Chronicles 12:32.

  4. Mike on February 1, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Hi Carey!
    Great podcast. I really appreciate David Kinnaman and all that the Barna Group does. Kudos to them!

    Two things stood out to me:

    1. In using the epistemology of survey data, how would you respond to the burnt-out pastor who is at the end of their rope and hears from this podcast they are the minority, the “squeaky wheel” and are driven further into shame-based isolation?

    2. As a self-identified done (with the institutional church), when I hear terms like “pastoral industry” or the “ministry pipeline” I feel a mix of frustration and sadness. For me church is family, not a business. As the leader of my household of two small boys I earn a living outside the family, not from the family. Around the dinner table I do far more listening than talking. And even though I outrank my boys in years I find myself learning from them.

    How would you respond to my observation that church today is a business but ought to be a family?

    Sorry for the harshness. Hopefully I’m not crushing your mellow too much. 🙂

    Thanks for all your work!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 1, 2017 at 9:54 am

      Hey Mike,

      Thanks for this. Man, Mike, burnout is a big problem in the church and in life. I’ve written quite a bit about it. Just use the search icon on my blog and type in “burnout” and you’ll see host of resources. I have empathy. And I would just say that shame-based isolation is a symptom of the problem. That wasn’t the message David was trying to send at all. Nor I.

      Terms can mean different things to different people. When you lead a large ministry, adopting organizational structure that helps you steward people and resources better is essential. I’ve led tiny churches and more recently, a large one. I wish we wouldn’t demonize people for using terms that helps them process tough leadership calls and complex decision making. The principles are actually scriptural. I’m actually teaching on it at our church this week. Organization isn’t bad…it’s a gift from God and necessary to organize anything above 200 people. Without it, the church crumbles. Can we lose perspective in the process? Sure. But why give all the brilliant leadership and organization ideas to the marketplace and let the church flounder.

      Mike, I love what you’re doing with your boys and church. Thank you for that. And take care of your soul my friend. I was burned out too. There is hope. And joy. And healing.

      With you Mike!


  5. A Amos Love on January 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm


    1. Self-Leadership???
    2. Church Leadership???
    3. Cultural Leadership???


    Seems, NOT one of these terms are found in the Bible?


    And, Jesus, has a unique take on “Leadership” for **His Disciples.**


    Seems Jesus, taught **His Disciples** NOT to be called “Leaders.”

    For you have “ONE” leader – the Christ.

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant.”
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    And, In the Bible…
    NOT one of **His Disciples** called them self “Leader.”
    NOT one of **His Disciples** called another Disciple “Leader.”

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

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