Don’t Succumb to the Great Resignation. Make Ministry Meaningful Again.

Not everyone has lost their sense of meaning in ministry. But the Great Resignation is teaching us many people would rather do something else that brings more fulfillment.

What is the Great Resignation? In the United States, people are quitting their jobs at incredibly high rates. As I write, over four million people a month are resigning. These unusually high rates apply to people in ministry as well, but I don’t think most ministers are resigning from ministry. I will call this phenomenon the Great Reshuffling.

How is a Great Reshuffling occurring in the church? Many pastors and church leaders are considering some other form of ministry—a new church, a different geographic location, a new type of ministry, or a different position in ministry.

Is this reshuffling healthy? For some, I’m sure it is. But not everyone considering something new needs to leave their current assignment. What if you should stay? Here are six ways you can renew the purpose of your ministry and make it meaningful again.

Progress. Create ways to grow every week. Build in time to learn something new. Go back to school. Start reading a magazine in an area of interest. Pursue a self-paced certification to give you fresh ideas about ministry. Even slow progress is encouraging. When you are consistently taking steps forward, you are less likely to dwell on the what-ifs of the past.

Variety. Make work more engaging by varying tasks. Variety can make ministry more interesting. Look at your weekly schedule and shake it up. When the pandemic was at its peak, most people had to change how they worked. But the rhythm from 2020 is not the same one you need now. So, move some items around on your calendar and create a newer, better work pattern.

Significance. Within your congregation, celebrate how each person’s involvement contributes to the whole of the church’s mission. People will feel devalued when they do not understand how their role helps accomplish the overarching objective. Every person’s contribution to the church matters, and they should know how and why. When you regularly celebrate with others, your sense of meaning increases.

Recovery. Embrace your vacation! Use all your vacation days and ask for more if you need them. People are more connected to their work than ever. Winding down each day can be difficult when you see the emails multiplying late in the evening.

Margin. Reserve at least one day a week for free thought. Or build a couple of hours into a day where you do not have anything specific scheduled. We can get so busy with our tasks that we do not allow our minds to roam through ideas. The best ideas often need space to form and time to mature.  

Harmony. Work-life balance is a misnomer. The implication is one will weigh on the other, as if they are competing. I prefer the term harmony over balance. The work of ministry and the ministry of the home should harmonize. There are times when one requires more time than the other, but they should always blend in harmony. Ministry can lose its meaning quickly when you view it as competition to your home life.

Not everyone needs to derive meaning from their work. For some, their sense of purpose is fulfilled outside of their jobs, and the job is a way they can support their outside endeavors. But many in ministry have a distinct need to find meaning in what they do. The call to minister in a church is often connected to the meaning the role provides.

Will a great resignation occur among pastors? I hope not. A return to meaningful ministry is likely to re-energize many who are considering leaving.  

I take a deeper dive into leading your church with hope in my book, The Church Revitalization Checklist: A Hopeful and Practical Guide for Leading Your Congregation to a Brighter Tomorrow. Get a copy today!





Posted on March 2, 2022

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Thank you Sam. Your thoughts certainly resonate within me as I consider the current state of affairs. The one thing that I do know for sure, if we follow the LORD, He will never lead us astray. Stay blessed and thank you for taking the time to post this.

  • Bradley Hales says on

    I am finding this quite an exciting time for ministry. We are growing both spiritually and numerically., as people are hungry for Jesus. I feel re-energized in my 28th year ordained!

  • Bob Myers says on

    I don’t know if I “succumbed to the Great Resignation” but I did indeed pivot from local church ministry to hospice chaplaincy in the last six months. The urge to resign came upon me rather quickly (with a long on-ramp of issues) and an opportunity presented itself. All along, God has affirmed that decision even though I’ve questioned it a few times.

    With that being said, what Sam is offering in this post is a lot of wisdom and a life-skill. Life will always give us frustration and disappointment. Renegotiating our expectations and reframing our vision is important skills if we are to thrive. I’ve done quite of bit of resigning – moving on in my career of over 40 years and sometimes I wonder if I was premature. Looking back, however, I can only think of perhaps one where I really should have stayed. Usually what happened is that God would frustrate my urges to move on and I’d have to figure out a way to be fulfilled and fruitful. I think it is a essential life-skill.

    The one step missing, if I may, in Sam’s advice is an assessment of what it is that is really bugging you. You may be able to do that through prayer and discussion with trusted people or even a session or two with a counselor might help. Once you’ve determined the piece or pieces that are missing, you can then prayerfully and creatively discern what you can do (here’s where Sam’s excellent menu of options come in) to address the “hole in your heart.”

    Assess and discern. God may have a wonderful surprise in store for you.

    Thanks for posting this, Sam!

  • With all due respect, I am not sure I see the benefit of your suggestions. I found that 2020 was the year that isolation was the norm. Little to no interactions with colleagues, virtual Happy Hours that were awkward at best, and a lot more work led a lot of people to want out of wherever they were as soon as things improved (2nd half of 21, start of 22). I am no pastor, but ministry is about people. Everything you list could be done in a monastery’s cloisters.
    My suggestions would be to reach out to your congregants who are professionals on LinkedIn (others through Facebook) and ask how they are doing. Ask if and how they apply their religion to daily life. They might not know how and in some cases you might learn something new. Also, have virtual chats with people for like 10 minutes. Why should people have to go look up how to find you if they want to talk?