10 Questions to Consider if You’re a Pastor Thinking about Leaving Your Church

I love local churches. I know the joy of leading them, and I know the anguish of leaving them at times. If you’re thinking about leaving your church—and the issue is not your own sin failure that necessitates your departure—maybe one of these questions will help you decide:

1. How closely have you been walking with the Lord? Obedience facilitates clarity in knowing God’s will; If you’ve been walking in disobedience, however, it’s hard to hear His voice clearly. You might even deceive yourself in the process.

2. What have you heard from the Lord in Bible study and prayer? I’m not suggesting we need some mystical experience, but I am saying we need to put ourselves in a place to hear from the Lord. We need to utilize these two disciplines He’s given us to communicate with Him.

3. Are you making a decision in a storm? If you decide in a storm, you might regret it when the clouds are gone. Sometimes you need to weather the storm before you decide – and the situation often doesn’t look so bad when the sun’s out again.

4. Are you physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted? That happens to all of us at some point. My encouragement is first to take a day off, go on a vacation, take a spiritual retreat, or do whatever you need to be renewed before you take the next step. If you don’t do that, you’ll take your exhaustion to your next place of ministry.

5. What does your spouse say? One of the dumbest mistakes I ever made in ministry was going against Pam’s intuition about leaving one church to go to another. I would have saved us much grief if I had just listened to her.

6. What do those pastors who know you best say? It never hurts to hear from someone outside our family—but make sure it’s someone whose walk with the Lord you trust. Get this same person to pray with you about this decision.

7. Do you have a track record of short ministries? If so, it’s possible the Lord has led you in those directions. In other cases, though, recurrent short tenures say something about us and our leadership. Don’t ignore this issue if it characterizes your ministry.

8. Do you feel both a push from one place and a pull toward another? I don’t argue that every person feels both, but there is wisdom in considering this question. One without the other ought to give you pause.

9. Have you already convinced yourself the grass will be greener elsewhere? It seldom is, no matter what you think now. Weeds still grow in the lawn, even if they’re in a different location.

10. Are you willing to give God a blank check? That is, are you ready to do whatever God wants, go wherever He requires, and pay whatever cost He demands? If not, you may still have your own hands on the steering wheel too much. 

Pastors, what other questions would you add? 

Posted on August 17, 2021

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • Great Article! Thank you for sharing this very informative post, and looking forward to the latest one.

  • William A. Secrest says on

    Thanks Dr. Lawless. All great questions that we need to consider. I laughed when you mentioned “what is your spouse saying?” There have been many moments when my wife would have pulled out of our current church. My wife has a hard time making connections with people in the church. She works outside the home and she works her tail off. She often reminds me that most people in our churches have no idea how hard it is for pastoral families to create relationships through their church family. She is on me constantly about balancing my work with the church and our time as a couple. I feel like God is about to reveal a new place to serve but I also have to stay faithful where I am.

    • William, my wife has also been reminding me that I spend far more time on church things than I do with her. I know better and aim to turn this situation around. I am a part time, associate pastor but typically work 25+ hours a week for the church, and am unwilling to continue this pace much longer. I came out of retirement to help out but I got way more than I bargained for!