Pastors encounter many questions about sexuality, few feel “very qualified” to address them

November 14, 2018

Omro, Wis. – A new report explores how American pastors are addressing sexual challenges within the church. Based on research conducted by Barna Group on 410 senior protestant pastors, Sexuality & the Church in America I found that 99% of pastors surveyed dealt with at least one question about sexuality in the past year, including one in four (27%) that handled 13-18 different issues brought by church members or staff. On average, pastors were approached by members or staff about nine of eighteen sexual issues over the past year.

“Pastors are encountering a lot of sexual confusion and pain over the course of a year, perhaps more than many people realize,” said Daniel Weiss, president of The Brushfires Foundation and author of the report. “Sexual issues too often are dealt with in secret or not at all. We believe that we need to bring these issues out into the open and into the full community of the Church. Our hope is that this report helps to jump start this process for many churches.”

The report also revealed seven in ten pastors (70%) are approached several times per year or more with concerns about sexual brokenness, including 22% who are approached once per month or more. Yet, when pastors were questioned about their qualifications for handling sexual problems, fewer than one-third of the pastors said feel “very qualified” to address 15 of the 18 sexual issues in the survey. Only seven issues were ranked by at least one-quarter of pastors as being among those they feel “very qualified” to address.

“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 Weiss. “What concerns us is that so few pastors feel very qualified to handle these difficult and painful issues. These 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.”

Weiss is encouraged by the high percentage of pastors (67%) who strongly agree that the Church should help people dealing with sexual challenges. Yet, he believes more needs to be done to change the culture in many churches to allow for more openness and healing support.

“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,” said Weiss. “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.”

To learn more about Sexuality & the Church in America I or to coordinate an interview with Daniel Weiss, please contact info (at)

About The Brushfires Foundation

The Brushfires Foundation is working to equip Christian leaders to foster sexual integrity, healing, and wholeness in their churches and communities. Through online training, on-site consultations, resource creation, and strategic collaboration with other organizations we are dedicated to serving individuals in need, strengthening and protecting families, equipping churches to share the truth about sexuality with love, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the culture. Connect with us at:

Series overview

Sexuality and The Church in America is a collaborative research project led by The Brushfires Foundation and TrueNorth Freedom Project, along with Covenant Eyes and 22 other organizations. Based on research conducted by Barna Group with 410 Protestant senior pastors in October 2017, this series of reports examines how churches and their leaders are addressing sexual issues. We intend these reports to help pastors, churches, ministries, and Christian leaders more effectively address sexual matters and become better equipped to serve people in need both within and outside their churches. View all reports in the series and explore detailed findings, survey methodology, and collaborating organizations

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