Six Reasons Your Pastor Is About to Quit

August 31, 2020

About one-third of you readers are laypersons. This article is for you. Of course, I know pastors and other vocational ministry leaders will be reading as well. Perhaps, more than my article, they will be reading your comments. They will be searching eagerly to see if anyone has a word of encouragement. They may be anticipating the responses will be a barrage of negativity they have become accustomed to receiving.

Please hear me clearly. The vast majority of pastors with whom our team communicates are saying they are considering quitting their churches. It’s a trend I have not seen in my lifetime. Some are just weeks away from making an announcement. They are looking for work in the secular world. Some will move to bivocational ministry. Some will move to marketplace ministry.

But many will move. 

Why has this period of great discouragement ensued? Of course, it is connected to COVID-19, but the pandemic really just exacerbated trends already in place. We would have likely gotten to this point in the next three to five years regardless. 

I also want you to know that these pastors do not think they will be leaving ministry. They just believe the current state of negativity and apathy in many local churches is not the most effective way they can be doing ministry. 

So, they are leaving or getting ready to leave. There are many reasons why, but allow me to share the top six reasons, understanding that they are not mutually exclusive. 

  1. Pastors are weary from the pandemic, just like everyone else. Pastors are not super humans. They miss their routines. They miss seeing people as they used to do so. They would like the world to return to normal, but they realize the old normal will not return.
  1. Pastors are greatly discouraged about the fighting taking place among church members about the post-quarantine church. Gather in person or wait? Masks or no masks? Social distancing or not? Too many church members have adopted the mindset of culture and made these issues political fights. Pastors deal daily with complaints about the decisions the church makes. 
  1. Pastors are discouraged about losing members and attendance. For sure, it’s not all about the numbers. But imagine your own mindset if one-half or more of your friends stopped engaging with you. And pastors have already heard directly or indirectly from around one-fourth of the members that they do not plan to return at all. 
  1. Pastors don’t know if their churches will be able to support ministries financially in the future. In the early stages of the pandemic, giving was largely healthy. Church members stepped up. Government infusion of funds for businesses and consumers helped as well. Now, the financial future is cloudy. Can the church continue to support the ministries they need to do? Will the church need to eliminate positions? These issues weigh heavily on pastors. 
  1. Criticisms against pastors have increased significantly. One pastor recently shared with me the number of criticisms he receives are five times greater than the pre-pandemic era. Church members are worried. Church members are weary. And the most convenient target for their angst is their pastor.
  1. The workload for pastors has increased greatly. Almost every pastor with whom we communicate expresses surprise at their level of work since the pandemic began. It really makes sense. They are trying to serve the congregation the way they have in the past, but now they have the added responsibilities that have come with the digital world. And as expected, pastoral care needs among members have increased during the pandemic as well.

Pastors are burned out, beaten up, and downtrodden. 

Many are about to quit. 

You may be surprised to discover your pastor is among them.

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374 Comments

  • Marie St. John says on

    Just because you cannot see me in a seat on Sunday, you cannot hear my voice praising His Holy Name, it does not mean that I am not with you. I am still your sister in Christ, still a sheep in the flock you were given to tend. I still need you, maybe more than ever. I am weary from caring for these very ill people, I am terrified that I will pass this plague onto some vulnerable soul, so I stay away. Each of us has our reason for in person worship or not. Only He may judge us.
    These are trying times. Turmoil of Biblical proportions. It is hard to fathom that as we are in the middle of this storm, but plague, locusts, fire, great storms and famine kinda tip me off. The world as we have known it has turned upside down. We have lost all of our earthly bearings, not knowing which way to turn. We do turn to you.
    We are being sorted as we speak, like goats and sheep. We must think of Daniel who saw all but a precious few of his fellow Israelites turn away from their Lord. They turned not out of boldness of faith but in the hollowness of fear. If I need to call to my Papa or call the name of Jesus a hundred times to find my center in He who made heaven and earth yet knows my heart, I will do so to keep Him in front. I need you my pastor to be there to hear my anguish and I promise to be there to hear yours. I love you my Brother and my Sister in Christ. I hope that you are taking this time to reassess your relationship with He who we serve. I am. I look forward to coming out of this with an even deeper relationship with Him. Not everyone will. We will deal with that when the time comes. In the meantime, I pray for you regularly and have the peace and joy of knowing that you do for me as well.
    Peace be with you, friend. Peace be with you.

  • This has been the most trying time in ministry for me. I’m in that group.

  • I SAY, PLEASE DO NOT QUIT! I CAN IMAGINE THAT MANY PASTORS WHO ARE CALLED BY GOD HAVE MINISTERED TO MANY PEOPLE JUST LIKE ME. TODAY, I AM 73 YEARS, 5 MONTHS AND 13 DAYS OLD. I AM FREE FROM A STRONGHOLD OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE FOR 1 YEAR, 6 MONTHS AND 15 DAYS. THE ADDICTION WAS THE CRUTCH THAT I LEANED ON TO IGNORE THE PAIN OF GUILT AND SHAME, AND FEAR OF MEN’S FACES, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, HEARING JESUS’ VOICE BIDDING ME TO CAST MY CARES ON HIM. MANY OF THE TIMES THAT I HEARD HIM, I RAN INTO THE CHURCH AND HEARD GOD’S BIDDING, AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS JUDGEMENT. MOST OF THOSE TIMES, MY ADDICTIONS ALSO WERE WAITING TO CLOSE MY EARS AGAIN. I WILL MAKE THIS AS BRIEF AS I POSSIBLY CAN BY SAYING THAT I HAD A HOST OF REASONS TO NOT STOP USING, OR SO I THOUGHT. THE LIE THAT I TOLD MYSELF WHEN I CAST MY CARES ON GOD, BECAUSE HE CARES FOR ME, THAT WOULD BE ALL THAT WAS REQUIRED. I NEGLECTED TO HEAR THE RIGHTLY DIVIDED WORD OF GOD THAT TOLD ME TO SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND ALL THE OTHER THINGS WOULD BE ADDED UNTO ME. I NEGLECTED TO STUDY GOD’S WORD, FOR MYSELF, TO SHOW MYSELF APPROVED UNTO GOD, A WORKMAN THAT NEEDETH NOT TO BE ASHAMED, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.
    I NEGLECTED TO SUBMIT MYSELF UNTO GOD. PERIOD. THEN, EXPECT THE DEVIL TO FLEE. I NEGLECTED TO CONTINUE TO FELLOWSHIP WITH THE BELIEVERS. WHAT I DID WAS CONTINUE TO WALK BY SIGHT. NOT BY FAITH. I CONTINUED TO BELIEVE THAT MY ISSUES WERE JUST THE USING OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS. SO, I CONTROLLED THAT FOR MANY, MANY YEARS WITH THE CHANGING OF BRANDS, HOURS OF USE, CHANGES OF EMPLOYMENT, CHANGES OF ASSOCIATES, LOVERS, HATERS, DIETS, RETIREMENT, RELIGIONS, REHABS AND ALMOST ANYTHING THAT WOULD KEEP ME FROM SUBMITTING ALL TO CHRIST. MOST OF THE TIMES, I BLAMED IT ON BEING AT THE WRONG CHURCH, OR BEING UNDER THE WRONG PASTOR, AND MANY TIMES, JUST THINKING THAT I WAS NOT WORTH THE AIR THAT I BREATHED. WHEN I DID, RIGHTLY, JUST NAME IT ALL AS SIN, AND THAT JESUS FORGAVE SIN, I WOULD FIND SOME HOPE AGAIN, THAT JUST MAYBE I COULD CHANGE. RIGHT THERE, AGAIN, WAS THE LIE. I COULD NOT CHANGE ME. I TRIED TO SO MANY, MANY TIMES. I CANNOT COUNT THE TIMES THAT I CAME UP TO THE ALTAR TO REPEAT THE SINNERS’ PRAYER, AND TO JOIN CHURCH, AGAIN, OR THE CHOIR. I DO REMEMBER HOW RELIEVED MY HEART FELT EACH TIME THAT I FELT THAT HOPE AGAIN. EVEN THE MANY REHABS GAVE RELIEF IN THOSE 28 DAYS, OR THAT 6-MONTH HALF-WAY HOUSE TO BE SEPARATED FROM WHAT I BLAMED ALL OF MY AILMENTS ON. IN REALITY, IT WAS NOT THAT AT ALL. IT WAS THE FACT THAT I NEEDED A SAVIOR. I NEEDED TO TRUST GOD AND HIS WORD. I NEEDED TO STUDY GOD’S WORD. BELIEVE THE REPORT OF THE LORD. DEAR PASTORS, I AM SAYING THESE THINGS OF YESTERDAY, BECAUSE FAITH CAME TO ME BY HEARING THE WORD OF GOD. AT MY WORST TIMES, YOU ALL PREACHED, AND TAUGHT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. DAY AFTER DAY. YOU MEN, AND WOMEN, OF GOD STAND AND PREACH GOD’S WORD, WHICH DOES NOT RETURN VOID. YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT. PLEASE KEEP DOING WHAT YOU WERE CALLED TO DO. I HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THAT THE WORD WILL REACH AND IN-DWELL IN THE PERSON THAT IT WAS SENT TO. THE HOLY SPIRIT TRULY DOES BRING TO REMEMBRANCE ALL. I NEVER WOULD HAVE MADE IT TO THIS DAY HAD I NOT HEARD THE WORD. I NOW SEE THAT I HID THE WORD IN MY HEART. I SEE THAT GOD IS FAITHFUL. I SEE THAT GOD WILL CHANGE A WOMAN WHO WAS LOST AND TURN HER AROUND, AS I CONTINUE TO SEEK HIS FACE. THERE IS SO MANY THINGS THAT I DESIRE GOD TO CHANGE ABOUT ME, BUT I NOW TRUST HIS PLAN. HIS WORD TELLS ME THAT HE WILL COMPLETE THIS GOOD WORK THAT HE BEGAN IN ME UNTIL THE DAY OF JESUS’ COMING. SOMETIMES, THE ENEMY WILL HARASS ME AND I WILL SUBMIT MYSELF TO GOD, THEREFORE RESIST THE DEVIL. I JUST LEARNED THE REALITY OF THAT SCRIPTURE THE OTHER DAY IN DEVOTION. BY ONE OF YOU, GOD’S PASTORS. I THEN READ IT FOR MYSELF. I SUBMIT MYSELF TO GOD. FIRST! THEN, RESIST THE DEVIL. I CANNOT RESIST HIM WITHOUT GOD. WHEN I SUBMIT TO GOD, I RESIST THAT ENEMY AND HE HAS TO GO. I KNOW THAT WE EXPECT YOU ALL TO DO THE WORK, BUT AS WE STUDY WE LEARN THAT WE HAVE MUCH TO DO, SO THAT WE MAY ENCOURAGE AND STRENGTHEN OTHERS. I ASK YOU TO STAY, PASTORS, AND SEE THE SALVATION OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. YOU ARE BEING EFFECTIVE TO MANY, AND HOPEFULLY, THE MANY WILL NOT WAIT AS LONG AS I DID TO CRY OUT TO GOD. HOW CAN THE PEOPLE HEAR WITHOUT A PREACHER. GOD BLESS YOU ALL. LOVE ALWAYS, GERT

  • I think pastors were ready to quit before the pandemic. Four years ago, the pastor of my former church gave an ultimatum about leaving a particular denomination while assuming everyone agreed with him and understood the reasons. The church ended up being split. The pastor and the elders were at a stalemate for three years about what to do after leaving the denomination and the pastor said he was forced out while the elders said he quit, this happened over a year ago. The pastor can’t resist bashing the former church regularly on Facebook while ignoring those of us who tried to support and encourage him. I had to end my friendship with him while telling him I hoped he found forgiveness and the love he was looking for. So many assumptions and such poor communication on both sides contribute to these problems.

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