The church has not been exempted from the impact of the global pandemic and the massive shutdown. Businesses, schools, governmental operations, and travel have all been adversely affected. Many churches have regathered for onsite worship, while many more are only offering online services. The full consequence of these necessary measures on ministries will not be evident for years to come.
In recent months, I have been contacted by over a dozen senior pastors who are considering resigning from their churches due to the stress, strain, and constant demands being placed on them. These are godly men who are reexamining their call to ministry and their ability to navigate their church in this constantly changing environment. Personal insecurities, lack of training, family stress, congregational conflict, and inadequate personal financial stability are reasons given for resigning.
In an effort to assist them as they discern the Lord’s will and wrestle with internal self-doubt, I have been careful not to make quick judgments on their fitness for ministry. These men, who represent different ages, races, and tenure in ministry, are under tremendous pressures and need support, a listening ear, and a safe place to share their concerns. In this post, I want to provide a few simple recommendations for those who are in similar circumstances or encounter a ministry leader who is considering stepping away from the ministry.
- Restore your calling by spending time with the Lord.
Are you hearing from the Lord or from your own internal frustration with the current circumstances? Do you have consent from God to be released from your assignment? Do not make a move until you sense the inner peace of God because you may be responding to yourself more than God’s Spirit.
- Recall the reasons you got into ministry.
Try to remember the joy you experienced when you launched out in ministry years ago.
- Reminisce on the positive things you have accomplished.
In difficult times it is easy to focus on what is not going well. Therefore, develop a discipline to review the progress you have made. Developing an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving is a safeguard against negativity and despair.
- Remember you are more than what you do as a leader.
Take ownership of what you could have done better, but do not internalize the current challenges you face and attribute them to your leadership or personality. Each of us struggle with self-doubt, but do not allow doubt to become a pattern of behavior because it will depress your ability to lead, think, and hear clearly the Lord’s voice.
- Refresh your own soul by getting away for a short rest.
Sometimes we overthink things and exhaust ourselves. Never make life altering decisions when you are physically and emotionally depleted.
- Reach out to trusted friends and colleagues to get their advice.
What do people who love and know you best say? What does your spouse think? Have you discussed your weariness with a trusted advisor? Be completely vulnerable and share with them the full picture of what you face personally and corporately.
- Recommit by focusing on one thing you can positively affect.
Perhaps you have been fixated on what is difficult instead of what is possible. Start making the necessary change to one area or program. The escalating effect of small successes strung together builds momentum and creates energy and synergy better than one phenomenal “Hail Mary” pass.
- Resign only when you can leave well and finish strong.
Try as best you can to resolve any broken relationships, make room for younger emerging leaders, leave the church in the best spiritual and financial position you can, and communicate with the church openly and honestly.
In my discussions with the few pastors I have talked with who are considering resigning from ministry, I have encouraged them to not quit, but to recommit if they do not have a clear leading from the Lord.
I sense that this season of transition we are all experiencing is a remarkable time of world-wide spiritual revival and renewal. Perhaps God is using this global pandemic to usher in the third Great Awakening that will transform the way the church engages and reaches the world with the Gospel. I believe God is calling new leaders and re-calling existing leaders to advance His Kingdom in new and innovative ways. This is not a time to step away from ministry, but a time to step up and change the world. The best is yet to come and it can flow through you!
Posted on October 23, 2020