Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ministry-- the Vocation with Greatest Job Satisfaction?

In a recent Special Report issue, America by the Numbers, some very revealing things came to light. The portion of the report which most interested me was the chart on the happiest people by job. 67% of all ministers say they are very happy on and with their jobs. The next happiest are firefighters, followed by Reservation and ticket agents and then architects. But back to clergy. They are clear examples that money does not make you happy. Of the some 37,820 clergy in America, the median salary is $39,680.

Most of these live in urban areas, but then so do most Americans-- out of 303 million people, 242 million Americans live in a city or a suburb, and 141 million work outside the home (in two parent families 64% have both parents working outside the home). Equally amazing of these 141 million who work outside the home 107 million of them drive to work alone-- incredibly wasteful. On an average morning some 70 million leave for work between 6:30 and 8:30 in the morning. The cities with the worst traffic (and so the longest commute time) are L.A. and San Diego in the west, and D.C. in the East (Boston and N.Y. are well behind-- in D.C. it takes an hour to get to work on average. In N.Y. and Boston, 46 minutes. On average Americans waste 38 hours a year and 26 gallons of gas per person sitting in traffic.

One of the most surprising statistics are about children and school. Every morning 55 million kids go to school. And 86% of them go to public schools. Only 7.7 million kids go to private schools, and there are 28,384 of them in the U.S. Some 6 million kids are not enrolled-- by which is meant they are either too young or they are home schooled, or they dropped out.

The analysis of married couples is especially interesting. 31.4 million couples have no children at home, whilst 24.2 million have children under 18 at home.

Where's the money? Well, average income has grown some 26.5% since 1980, but this really is not actually an increase for most. For 99% of tax payers the income has been nearly flat. In 2005 the top .o1% consisted of 14,588 tax payers making more than $9.6 million a year. Yet this .01% control some 5% of the nation's total wealth. The merely rich, which amounts to 1% of all tax payers make about 1.1 million a year.

How do we spend our free time and money? The statistics don't lie. We spend a lot more of it on entertainment than on charitable works. Every single day of the year Americans buy an average of 7,500 Samsung LCD TVs (and we average watching about 2 hours and 35 minutes of TV a day). In fact, we have more TVs in homes than people (2.73 per households compared to 2.6 persons per household). We buy about 4 million movie tickets a day. There are some 1 million 650 thousand DVD rentals from Netflix a day. We buy some 1,683,835 songs a day online. Today 71% of Americans have an internet connection. On average we spend one hour seven minutes online at home and 2 hours 36 minutes at work.

I wish I could say we are more fit now than when I was a child, but the truth is just the opposite. We spent $4.9 billion on fitness equipment last year, and another 17.4 billion on fitness clubs (there are 29,357 in the U.S), but guess what? On an average day, 83% of all Americans do not exercising at all. 20% of all Gold's gym members have not darken the doors of the place in the last four months, on average.

As for our eating habits-- be prepared to wince. In the U.S. we have 612,020 fast food cooks and only 392,850 farmers! Americans spend some $390 billion in restaurants in a year, but only 364 billion in grocery stores. 66% of us are overweight or obese, including 17% of our children. Every single day on average we buy: 1) 443,500 large fries at Burger King; 2) 93,000 jars of Ragu tomato sauce; 3) 58.8 million eggs; 4) 201,720 jars of Hellman's mayonaise; 5) 160,968 bottles of Absolut vodka; 6) 978,030 bags of Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn. None of which is good for us. I could go on.

What all this means for doctors and ministers is that we shall not soon be out of work-- there are too many unhealthy people-- physically, emotionally, spiritually out there in the U.S., and the number is growing.


Marc Axelrod said...

Well, except for the Vodka, I've had just about every food item on that list this year alone. Yikes!

I am just a tad biased, but I think being a minister is the coolest job in the world. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Getting paid to study the Bible and to teach others also, how much better can it get? Plus, I get to read all the books I want, and I get to hang out with God's people. And with my sermons on the Net, I'll have a ministry long after I'm with the Lord.

For me, it's a dream come true. I bet you feel the same way about teaching God's Word. Your books and tapes will continue to teach others also for decades to come!

Marc, who's burning the midnight oil again.

New England Guy said...

Dr. Witherington,

Those facts that you provided are amazing, although truth be told, I'm not really all surprised by them. I wonder how those statistics would feature in the Christian sphere. I don't think they would be much different. It goes to show that the Corinthians are alive and well today.


Mark Baker-Wright said...

By the title, I'd hoped for more commentary on the specific statistic of happy ministers. Instead, I got another rant about all the things that are wrong with America on the basis of the numbers.

This is not to dispute the numbers, nor the wrongness of the actions described. But that's a REALLY old tale, by now, and I hoped for something more interesting.

New England Guy said...

In response to b-w,

I don't know if you were referring to my post, but just in case, I was not exactly ranting, and I don't think there was anything in my tone that would suggest a rant. I was simply offering my own reflections. But perhaps my observations were a little out of place. I might be willing to grant that.

I do think you brought up a good point about the statistic concerning the happiness of ministers. I'm not sure what to make of that statistic, whether I thought it would be higher or lower. Ministers have a lot of stress and many congregational issues to deal with, and on account of those considerations I think I'm surprised that the percentage was as high as it was. But on the other side, their work is spiritually fulfilling; and when someone believes that he is serving God and people, he is probably going to be a pretty happy fellow.

As an aside, I'm hoping to attend grad school and get a master's and PhD in New Testament. I ultimately want to be a college Bible professor and a preacher, so some of this information may be useful to me.


Chris Brown said...

not to be contra, but i also have seen statistics that seemingly say the exact opposite, i wonder if you would agree or what you think about these? (i'm not too sure about the source, but if so... wow!)

According to Shiloh Place Ministries (, which drew its information from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups:

• 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America.
• 4,000 new churches start each year in America.
• 7,000 churches close each year in America.
• 50% of pastors' marriages end in divorce.
• 70% of pastors continually battle depression.
• 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles.
• 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
• 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
• 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way to make a living.
• 80% of pastors spend under 15 minutes a day in prayer.
• 70% of pastors only study God's Word when preparing a message.
• Nearly 40% of pastors have had an extra-marital sexual affair since entering ministry.
• 80% of seminary graduates who enter ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
• 80% of pastors' wives feel their husbands are overworked.
• 80% of the adult children of pastors sought professional help for depression.
• 90% of pastors said their training was inadequate for ministry.
• 85% of pastors report that their biggest problem is dealing with abstinent elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.
• 90% of pastors said the hardest thing about ministry is uncooperative people.
• 70% of pastors are grossly underpaid.
• 80% of pastors' wives feel unappreciated by the congregation.
• 90% of pastors said ministry was completely different from what they thought it would be.
• Only 70% of pastors felt called of God into ministry when they began.
• Only 50% of pastors felt called of God into ministry three years later.
• 80% of pastors' wives feel pressured to be someone they are not and do things they are not called to do in the church.
• Over 50% of pastors' wives feel that their husbands entering ministry was the most destructive thing to ever happen to their families.