Few American pastors feel “very qualified” to address sexual brokenness even though they are often approached by church members with such struggles, a new study reveals.
The newly-released study, Sexuality and the Church in America I, was conducted by Barna Group on behalf of The Brushfires Foundation, TrueNorth Freedom project and 23 other organizations concerned about the state of the church. It is the first of several reports to come on how pastors and churches are dealing with sexual issues.
Even though many feel inadequate, 70 percent of pastors said they are approached several times a year or more by church members struggling with various sexual sin. And 22 percent were contacted once per month or more regarding concerns over sexual brokenness.
Issues of sexual brokenness include marital infidelity, lust, pornography addiction, gender identity confusion, sexual abuse, among others.
Of those surveyed, 80 percent of pastors said they were approached in the past year by individuals with questions concerning marital infidelity. Yet, only 37 percent of non-mainline pastors and 32 percent of mainline pastors said they feel very qualified to assist congregants struggling with marital infidelity.
But even fewer pastors feel very qualified to assist church members struggling with pornography, sexual abuse, and transgenderism/gender dysphoria, to name a few.
“It doesn’t alarm us that pastors are encountering so much sexual brokenness over the course of a year. We know such issues exist,” said Daniel Weiss, President of the Brushfires Foundation and author of the report. “What concerns us is that so few pastors feel very qualified to handle these difficult and painful issues. There is a great need for ministry leaders to be trained and for outside caregiving ministries to work directly with local churches to handle these issues in a caring and professional way.”
Notably, 73 percent of pastors were approached with pornography-related questions. But only 16 percent of mainline pastors felt very qualified to address pornography use by husbands, versus 30 percent of non-mainline pastors. A mere 10 percent of mainline pastors and 9 percent of non-mainline pastors felt very qualified to address a wife’s pornography use.
The new research shows nonetheless that two-thirds of pastors “agree strongly” that the Church should help people deal with sexual struggles and provide assistance during the healing process. Broken down by church affiliation, 77 percent of non-mainline and 56 percent of mainline pastors strongly agreed the Church should offer help with issues of sexual brokenness.
“That most pastors see sexual healing as an essential function of a church is a great start, but our research also shows that very few pastors are highly engaged with sexual issues,” Weiss explained. “These leaders will need to find a way to become more involved on these issues as culture moves further away from the historic Christian teaching on sexuality. Our churches can be a great source of light and warmth in the culture, but we need to fan the flames a bit to be the witnesses God calls us to be.”
This study surveyed 410 senior, executive, or lead pastors across the country. Data was collected from October 24-30, 2017. The margin of error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
The Brushfires Foundation and its collaborating partners hope to assist pastors who do not feel well-qualified to address issues of sexual brokenness. Included in the report is a useful list of action items encouraging awareness of how our sexually-charged society is impacting churches, preaching and teaching on sexual issues facing church members, offering supplemental resources to church members struggling with sexual sin, and prayer.
For more information and resources to assist pastors addressing sexual brokenness with their church members, please visit brushfiresfoundation.org.