Five Reasons Some Pastors Regret Quitting Their Churches

The Great Resignation, also known as the Great Reshuffling, is well underway in both the secular world and in churches. Pastors and church staff are quitting. The pandemic certainly accelerated the pace of departures.

The pastors who contacted us at Church Answers fall into four categories of quitting. One group simply moved to another church. A second group quit vocational ministry altogether and took a secular job. A third group retired. And the fourth group moved toward bivocational or co-vocational status.

 Now we are beginning to hear from pastors who have “buyer’s remorse.” The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly three-quarters of people who left their secular jobs have regrets ( Anecdotally, we do not see buyer’s remorse to be that high in vocational ministry, but we still hear about it regularly.

 What are the main reasons pastors regret quitting their churches? Here are five of the most common responses we’ve received:

1. The green grass was brown. After succumbing to the green grass syndrome, some pastors indicated that the next church did not meet expectations. The common response we’ve heard is that the next church has the same problem people. They just have different names.

2. Some felt like they had abandoned God’s call on their lives. Of course, we heard this response from some of the pastors who left vocational ministry altogether. We should note, however, we’ve actually heard from more pastors in this group who are finding a new kind of calling in marketplace ministry.

3. They recall the joys and blessings of their former church. Having left their church, the pastors have a new perspective. They remember the good times more and the bad times less. A common refrain is, “My church was not nearly as bad as I thought when I was there.”

4. They miss preaching. For those who left vocational ministry completely, they tend to miss the weekly sermon preparation and preaching. In fact, many of them describe their call to ministry as a call to preach. Those who left their churches for retirement, though, generally indicate they have as many preaching opportunities as they want.

5. They feel “lost.” We’ve heard that word quite a bit, though it is rarely defined. Is it a  sense of loss of routine, purpose, identity, or all three?

Next week I will examine some reasons pastors are loving life after serving in a local church. There are indeed two sides to this coin.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Posted on May 9, 2022

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Great article Thom. I appreciate how you are always seeking to be “in touch” with what is happening in the church environment and spiritual leaders. The building up of spiritual leaders and the local church has never been more needed. Thank you for your service!

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