To be clear, if this article looks a little fragmented, it’s because these are the statistics, Scripture, and notes I have for my presentation with the Church Mental Health Summit that goes live September 10, 2021. If you watch it on that day, it’s free. If you want to get access to it after that fact, use our affiliate code to sign up and catch everything all year long for you and your church.
Scripture and addiction
Paul sent Timothy to the Ephesian church due to poor Biblical teach and tolerating immoral behavior and laid out what a church leader should be.
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truth s of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NIV)
Paul then talks about idolatry, impulse control, and God’s plan for Christians
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Types of addiction
- Among people aged 12 or older in 2019, 60.1% (or 165.4 million people) used a substance (i.e., tobacco, alcohol, kratom, or an illicit drug) in the past month. [SAMHSA]
- Among the the almost 140 million current alcohol users in 2019, nearly half had binge drank in the last month. Among those binge drinkers, 16 million people or nearly a quarter of them are daily heavy drinkers. [SAMHSA]
- This is not an issue that is only for the community, many pastors also have struggled with this issue, leading to many issues within the Church including a high suicide rate and domestic violence for pastors which we will talk about later. This has led to high profile pastors ending their life, leading their job, or quitting ministry all together and leaving their church with more questions than answers. [New Spring Church]
- Most pastors (76%) oppose marijuana use, as of a study in 2020 by Lifeway Research [Lifeway] compared to all Americans at 60% wanting recreational use. [Pew Research]
- Unfortunately, there are no statistics with drug use for pastors. Imagine a pastor having such strength to talk about their own recovery? It’s certainly out there, several pastors who are involved in Celebrate Recovery‘s Celebrate Pastors in Recovery. Unfortunately, it is more stigmatized than pastors with pornography, mental illness, burnout, alcohol misuse, or domestic violence.
- 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month. Comparing this to 1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and currently struggling. That’s more than 50,000 U.S. church leaders. 43% of senior pastors and youth pastors say they have struggled with pornography in the past. [Covenant Eyes]
- A Barna research study has even higher statistics, finding most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past. But less than 1% recommended telling their congregation. LESS THAN 1%. [Barna]
- There are several Christian leadership articles out there on how to battle church burnout, but one survey done recently by Faithlife is the 2021 Pastoral Mental Health Report and identifies that 40% of 25-40 year old pastors feel burnt out and 36% of of 41-60 year old pastors do as well. We work with poor boundaries, working at home, not seeing our kids, working more than 50+ hours on a salary less than what McDonalds’ minimum wage is, and being under appreciated.
Pastors and suicide
- Pastor, mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson dies by apparent suicide, wife reports
- Why Are So Many Pastors Committing Suicide?
- A young pastor preached about depression, then killed himself. His widow wants to help others by talking about it
- Megachurch pastor takes his own life after struggle with mental illness
What Can We Do To Fix This?
- Let’s publicly talk about it.
One area I didn’t list in my areas of addiction is pride. But we know it is something many pastors struggle with. I see in in the Facebook groups of youth pastors being victims to it from senior pastors, senior pastors posting not wanting to look bad, and issues of threats and poor leadership. We need to open up.
- Churches, pay for pastors’ insurance so they can access treatment.
- Go to counseling pastors, even if to get a check-up
- De-stigmatize it or normalize the conversation
I told you pastors are not talking about their own recovery, such as with drug use. Imagine a Church where we can be honest about our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and not fear being exiled. This starts in leadership, first and foremost, with pastors and elders. If you want your congregation and community to be honest, you need to be honest yourself. Unfortunately, this concern is only preached from the pulpit with citing a single Bible verse or two and completely dismissing any scientific or behavioral conversations. We say its wrong and move on, ignoring our own addictions, shortcomings, and how to receive help if we are doing so.
- Find prosocial activities
That Faithlife survey I referenced with burnout also talked about what pastors do to handle stress which included great things such as exercise (48%), being with family or friends (54%), and prayer (65%) but also included such things as alcohol (9%) which was never made to get rid of anxiety and social media (42%) and television 60%) which we know is not a way to relax but distract and sometimes make stress worse or blur boundaries of work and home life. Take care of yourself or you will have nothing to give. And serve your family as they are your first mission field. [Pastoral Mental Health Report]
- Celebrate Recovery/Accountability in Celebrating Pastors in Recovery