Friday, December 23, 2011

Vicar Burnout

A new survey of 3000 Anglican clergy reveals that nearly 1 in 5 of us feel 'burned out' at least once a month or more. The survey also states that this is 'not high when compared to other occupational groups" (p6). Well that explains a lot. If 18% of bankers, politicians, journalists, clergy, social workers, teachers, parents etc. are experiencing that much stress, it's no wonder we're surrounded by the fruits of ropey decisions.

Sam Norton has recently posted on the stats of church decline in the CofE. I hope the fact that we're experiencing similar levels of stress to everyone else doesn't lead the powers that be to go 'oh, that's alright then'. There are some serious structural problems with the CofE, and the jury is still out on whether the parish system is an effective neighbourhood mission strategy or a doddering sacred cow which needs to be put out of its misery before it topples over and crushes us.

Update: for some thoughts on where and when churches are effective in mission, try this (HT Thinking Anglicans)
"•If you want Christianity to shrink, give it wealth and privilege and back it up with the power of the state.

•If you want Christianity to show surprising resilience, suppress its structures and persecute its people.
•If you want Christianity to thrive, drop it into a free market environment and force it to hustle."

There, that was cheery! Merry Christmas everyone!!


  1. Perhaps the Parish System is unsustainable in it's current form?

    But are Clergy the victims of their own vocation - the need to serve all comes across very strongly, when it seems to me to be impossible. There are only so many hours in a day or week or month.

    The Church is an institution, which is slow to change and relies on outdated assumptions of how it should organise. I think that the time might come, when a Christian presence in each parish (of whatever denomination) might have to be enough. It would mean abandoning long held beliefs and practices - but what other choice will there be?

    The real Hero's or Heroines of all of this seem to be Clergy families, who have a separate vocation to support their Ordained spouse, through thick and thin. How many gifts they receive of patience, grace, love and perseverance to help them cope.

  2. I think you're right: we've a church planting project in new housing estates here in Yeovil where local churches have got together to support lay teams moving into each estate to be (hopefully) the nucleus of a local Christian presence. We don't know as yet whether they'll grow into self-supporting congregations, nor which local church stream those congregations will join with. There's a charity overseeing the work at the moment, but we agree that it's more important that someone is there, than which local church they represent.

    We're not the only church in Yeovil that gets the logic of a local church for each community. However, if the CofE did get out of the way, there'd be an interesting strategic challenge for local churches: do you go for a socialist or capitalist model of church planting - try to plan and lead it co-operatively and centrally, or have a free for all and see which ones thrive?

    Areas of new housing are a great chance for churches to try something new, and for the CofE to rethink its role as the parish church for every community. It doesn't have to be us, as long as it's someone.

  3. Took me a couple of reads to realise that your survey was 'Anglican Clergy in the Church of England!

    I would suspect that we Anglican clergy in the rest of the Anglican Communion have similar statistics. And we don't have the same establishment baggage to carry as you folks do, so I suspect there's more to it than the C of E's self-image as the servant of every hamlet in England. Statistics for American pastors of all denominations (I haven't seen the ones for our country of Canada) are just as depressing. Must be something in the pastoral psyche.