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Church Planting Network Seeks to Support Pastors

Now that Travis Vaughn has joined the Tennessee Valley Presbytery as the executive director of church planting, he is working to build church planting network dynamics into the presbytery. These dynamics will create a communication and relational structure that will help leaders around the presbytery to pursue our common vision and mission, together.

Even as the presbytery is currently working through transitions in leadership at two churches, we are reminded of the need to support our pastors. Ministry can be isolating, even when part of a presbytery. Travis has spent significant time and effort studying ways that isolation and discouragement impacts pastors.

Travis explains, “Isolation, discouragement, and burnout are not new issues among pastors, but the past few years have been especially intense. Pastors who plant and revitalize churches need the support that an intentional relational structure facilitates. An ecosystem that promotes prayer, coaching, training, cohort-based learning, fellowship, and subject matter expertise is important for the flourishing of our pastors. That is what we want to build.”

One significant part of Travis’ work is organizing regular network gatherings. These events are opportunities for pastors and their wives to engage in face-to-face fellowship while also hearing from others in ministry about specific issues related to church planting and church renewal. We hope that these rhythms become times of encouragement, shared learning, and shared problem-solving. We want to foster an environment of connection through fellowship with others, enrichment through teaching and discussion, and spiritual support through prayer, together.

Travis’ work also includes recruiting pastors, working with the MNA committee, collaborating with TVP sessions, and making sure our planters are equipped and cared for throughout the process.

While a 2017 article by Barna Group analyzed research about the state of pastors and had encouraging results, a similar 2022 article found discouraging data. For example, in 2017, 88% of pastors reported good and excellent spiritual health and 85% reported good and excellent emotional health. 60% reported frequently being energized by their work (while only 24% of U.S. adults reported the same). 68% reported frequently being well-supported by people close to them (while only 43% of U.S. adults reported the same).

However, in 2017, 12% of pastors reported frequently feeling inadequate about their work or calling and 21% reported frequently feeling emotional/mental exhaustion.

In March 2022, 42% of pastors reported seriously considering quitting full-time ministry within the previous year. Of those who had considered quitting, 56% cited “the immense stress of the job” as a factor, 43% reported feelings of loneliness and isolation, and 38% reported current political divisions as a stressor.

Even among the pastors who had not considered quitting full-time ministry, these factors still negatively impacted their work in the church. 34% noted “the immense stress of the job,” 32% noted current political divisions, and 18% reported feeling lonely and isolated.

The situation is far from hopeless. Of the pastors who had not considered quitting, 83% said they believe in the value of their ministry and 73% said they are satisfied in their job.

Additionally, we know that we serve a powerful, loving, gracious God who cares for the pastors, church planters, and their families in our presbytery. We want to do all that we can to proactively minister to those who minister.

Travis says, “We are aware of the statistics, knowing that according to Barna, ‘46% of pastors under the age of 45 say they are considering quitting full-time ministry.’ We are also aware of the research behind the importance of a supportive network. One study found that the odds of a church planter’s survivability increases by 135% when he meets with others who share a similar mission (a group of church planting peers).* As these called leaders put their hands to the plow, our hope is that they will make some friends along the way as they preach the gospel, shepherd the flock, and engage with their communities.”

*From Leadership Network’s 2007 “Health and Survivability of New Churches Report”

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