Difficult But Good: Hispanic Pastors Find Meaning in the Midst of Challenges

Recently, Lifeway Research partnered with Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to ask pastors of Hispanic Protestant churches about challenges to their well-being as well as the positive impacts of pastoring. Their responses revealed the positive far outweighs the negative. It’s worth reflecting on this reality and seeing what we can learn.

Church Leadership Is Challenging.

In recent years, research has revealed what most pastors already know: The role of pastor has inherent hardships. The findings have spurred important conversations about the need for encouragement and healthier practices among pastors.

Even in this study of Hispanic Protestant churches, the presence of positive impacts did not erase real difficulties. For example, pastors of Hispanic churches and an earlier Lifeway Research study of all Protestant pastors revealed that many pastors face challenges to their emotional well-being such as stress (48% among pastors of Hispanic churches; 63% of all pastors), discouragement (32% and 48% respectively), loneliness or lack of friendships (31% and 28% respectively), and distractions (25% and 48% respectively).

Pastors are expected to be experts in many areas. There is pressure to deliver counsel, guidance, teaching and decisions at a high level. Additional stress is created by having to switch rapidly between these areas of expertise.

Pastors also face challenges working within their congregation. Both pastors of Hispanic Protestant and Protestant churches in general are challenged by people’s apathy or lack of commitment (72% and 75% respectively), resistance to change (32% and 46% respectively), and people’s unrealistic expectations of the pastor (30% and 35% respectively).

Leading is relational, and those relationships take work. It is easy for a congregation to push off the work of ministry on the pastor or church staff rather than sharing it. Those dynamics alone make church leadership difficult. But the nature of pastoring a church is also often compounded by two other common American stressors: time and money.

The majority of pastors of Hispanic Protestant churches acknowledge the ongoing challenge of balancing their time between work and home (58%). Among all Protestant pastors, 51% say they need to invest in time management and 43% need to give attention to the balance between work and home.

Many pastors are bi-vocational, working both in the church and at another paying job. This typically is not for fun or to create ministry opportunities, but out of financial necessity. Financial stress is not uncommon among pastors and not a surprising reality when most churches are small and are not growing.

To maintain well-being amidst these challenges, pastors and other church leaders need to invest in their own spiritual walk with the Lord, have companions they can trust, have encouragers, take weekly Sabbath rests, and recharge with rest and hobbies unrelated to their everyday work. But there is also a daily opportunity to focus on the positives of leading a church.

Church Leadership Is Rewarding.

The positive impact of being a pastor most frequently cited by leaders of Hispanic Protestant churches is seeing life transformation up close (85%). People often turn to pastors first to tell when they repent, feel called to ministry, choose to be obedient, or had an opportunity to share the gospel. The joy that accompanies this news is contagious. 

There is delight that comes from doing the work you are called to and equipped for. Eighty-four percent of pastors of Hispanic Protestant churches agree they find personal enjoyment in using their gifts to serve others. Their work is meaningful, and they recognize in God’s design for his church how others need their ministry.

While we are commanded to invest our resources for kingdom purposes, the results depend on the work of God. The very best things you want for your church are not guaranteed through money, training, people, planning or other resources. No one should be more aware of that than a church leader. And indeed, more than 8 in 10 pastors of Hispanic Protestant churches say pastoring has increased their dependence on God (83%). While pastors and church leaders are often highly skilled in multiple things, ministry is a humbling awakening to the fact that God gives the increase.

Every one of us can process and respond to the experiences of life in ways that draw us closer to Jesus Christ, but we often overlook this opportunity. Eighty-three percent of Hispanic church pastors indicate their experiences in this role have led to personal spiritual growth.

Helping families and marriages heal (79%) is also something pastors frequently list as a positive impact of their role. This investment in families does not always have a happy ending, and that is one of the forms of discouragement that pastors face. But the love of God demonstrated by Jesus Christ should be reflected in his church. And teachings about this love are as applicable in a marriage ceremony as in a sermon.

There is an interesting dichotomy in pastoral ministry. The role of pastor often includes feelings of loneliness as their responsibilities seem unique to them. But pastoring also leads to meaningful connections with others for 79% of pastors of Hispanic Protestant churches. These valuable connections include other local pastors who can relate to them. It includes the other church leaders who most closely share the vision and work of ministry.

When people are ready to talk, they will often open up to a pastor. As they authentically share what they are facing or what they have been hiding, the conversations have a depth that far exceeds typical surface conversations.

Overall, 78% of pastors of Hispanic Protestant churches get personal enjoyment and satisfaction from doing ministry. While this is similar to what pastors feel as they use their gifts, that satisfaction stems from finding their purpose in God’s design. This is simply the joy of ministry itself.

The Meaning in the Struggle

The work of ministry—making connections, supporting families, finding opportunities to use our gifts, and facilitating life change—can be challenging. But if it is viewed from an eternal perspective, these same events can bring a pastor enjoyment, a closer walk with God, meaning and satisfaction.

The seven positive impacts of pastoring listed in this survey also surfaced in earlier interviews with Hispanic Protestant pastors. More than 6 in 10 pastors (62%) say they have experienced all seven of these benefits in their own life and ministry. The good news is that Hispanic Protestant pastors report many positive ways being a pastor has impacted their lives, and for that we can thank God.

Read more from Scott McConnell »