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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Posted on August 31, 2020
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.
More from Thom
Pastors are human too, and we must support and pray for them in order for them to have the strength to endure the challenges of being one. Our pastor Keion Henderson, https://lhhouston.church/ is always in our thoughts and our hearts as we are members of his church of whom God is the center!
A pastor is Human too and we must be patient with them too and support them always. I really thank our Houston Pastor, Keion Henderson, https://www.keionhenderson.com/ who has truly been patient with our community!
Pastors really have a hard job to do. Preaching to God and tending to His flock and at the same time, also dealing with the common problems that people have too. We must learn to appreciate them and their sacrifices for the church and it’s members. Our Pastor here in Houston TX, Keion Henderson, https://www.keionhenderson.com/ has always and is doing so much for us that is why he will always have our love, respect and support!
I came to Pastor a church that was on the verge of closing. A church I was told needed revitalization but when I arrived and started to work they were not ready.
They needed an interim Pastor to which I believe I ended up being.
But the hate and disrespect is by far most damaging. The how dare you follow God, this our church. Almost word for word of some of the members.
It was so rough that a little over a year in, I said I quit. I’m now moving on to church plant and work co.vocational. I’m even going back to school for IT because let’s be real Christians are not tithing or giving to the work of ministry.
I was Pastoring in the North East for less then 35 a year. God got us through but eventually money goes away. It was tough.
We’re leaving July 1, 2022. So please pray.
Praying for you. Your suffering was not in vain. May our Lord Jesus Christ hold you close in tender love, comfort, mutual fellowship, and ever-growing clarity of purpose and provision, to His delight and joy for you and yours.
After almost 22 years of ministry, I can tell you why pastors are ready to quit. Pastors are tired, but not in the way you might think.
1. They are tired of begging the body to function as it should……
They are tired of begging members to SHOW UP for church
They are tired of begging parents to bring their kids to Sunday School and youth services
They are tired of begging people to participate in worship services
They are tired of begging people to keep their commitments
They are tired of begging for nursery workers
They are tired of begging for ushers/greeters
They are tired of begging for Prayer Team members
They are tired of begging for Sunday School teachers
They are tired of begging for people to help with nursing home and prison outreach
They are tired of begging for people to help with the mission project
Tired of begging people to put God ahead of travel baseball, camping, dog shows, the lake, etc.
Tired of begging Christians to be Christians
2. They are tired of caring about the church’s spiritual health, when the members don’t.
Pastors want to see the church grow. They want to see members grow. They want to see spiritual fruit bloom in their lives. They want to see gifts develop in their lives. However, it is clear, that many members could not care less. Pastors can give a lot of things. But they can’t manufacture hunger for, and interest in, spiritual things, for the congregation. Pastors are tired of carrying the entire burden of “want to”, for the church.
3. They are tired of commitment that isn’t reciprocated.
I find it amazing that church members expect total commitment from their pastor, yet have none for themselves. Every pastor has “that member”. You know…..the one who hasn’t been to church in 3 months……But calls when you are on vacation, with an “emergency”. “Pastor can I PLEASE meet with you tonight? What? Oh. You are in Florida and won’t be able to see me? I’m a little disappointed in you pastor. I really need you, and you aren’t around. I wish I had the money to go to Florida, like you did. Well, maybe its time for me to find another church, with a pastor who will BE THERE for me and won’t be on vacation when I need him”.
Why is your pastor thinking about quitting? He or she is tired.
Tired of begging for your help
Tired of caring when you don’t
Tired of committing when you won’t.
I really believe that a Pastor endures so much. He sacrifices a lot and really has so much on his plate as a spiritual leader. I admire Keion Henderson, https://www.keionhenderson.com/, our Pastor in Houston TX for really being such a great and respectable leader! Thanks to his sacrifices, he truly has made our church great again!
Brother, I feel it. Please hang in there. People can be a real “treat” sometimes. I frequently say “ministry would be great if it were’nt for the people.” Remember you work for Jesus, and his approval is the only approval that matters. I know how it feels to “leak” a nice jab at someone who just doesn’t have a clue, I know how it feels to be surrounded by takers who never have enough, and are never satisfied. The pastor is a sorcerer who is supposed to just magically always fix every problem (alone), right every wrong(alone), meet every need (alone), never call anyone out, and just continue to rock us all to sleep in our warm cribs…crying and wetting ourselves along the way. Jesus knows what you are facing. His grace is enough. We are out here, we hear you, you are not alone. Focus on making Jesus happy, and let him take care of everyone else. Share everything with your wife. Never let her feel that what you are struggling with is her fault…wives can’t always tell if we keep it to ourselves. I believe God is going to bring revival. Just because everything right now seems so bleak…that is why I believe it is coming….because only God can genuinely fix things. I am praying for you! Find that one person who always says the right thing, notices the great point you made in that message, the point God spoke right to your heart, for you to share with them…focus on that person, and keep on. John Fogarty said when Creedence played Woodstock they were on in the early am hours…99 percent of the crowd was passed out asleep…John said waaaay in the back, way back, he saw a lighter lit, and a guy cheering…he said Creedence played that set for that guy. Peace to you in Jesus’ name
Been at my church for almost 2 decades. About 3/4 of that time I’ve dealt with criticism. Not at things I do, but rather at things they perceive wrong in the church or with a person and want to make sure I know that it is their belief that I am solely responsible for fixing all things. Yet when things go well, others get the accolades who had nothing to with it. But when they go wrong. I feel the fullness of the heat. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get it to this ministry for the atta boys. But seeing those thank yous going to others for the work I did when they literally contributed nothing to those areas hurts. Each time I convince myself I’m done and ready to leave ministry altogether I pray and believe I am assured that this is where and what God wants from me for His purposes. I have many friends who also are Pastors. Some have been leading longer than me, some longer than I’ve been alive, and some just getting started. And seeing them express their thanks for compliments or thank you gestures they receive from their congregations is hard when my well is so dry.
I know this struggle is my flesh. My joy should only be in and from the Lord. At the same time, the Apostle Paul directs the congregation to express thankfulness to their shepherds. I guess mine neglected to read those portions… they are well-versed in trying to be the iron that sharpens me or the fire that refines me. But no concern for being those who help support me.
Sometimes I just feel trapped. I have struggled with depression over the last 6 years. Prior to that, I had never had any depressive thoughts or experiences of that kind. Now they are regular battles.
I would love to find a good Biblical counselor to get some help. But Between my family responsibilities and demands from my congregation that go over and above Pastoral responsibilities I have no time for counseling. My dad wasn’t always there for me even though he was always there for my siblings and I refuse to put any of my children through the pain of that rejection.
So I show up for my kids. Try to be a devoted and attentive husband. And then I spend every other waking moment tending to this complaint or that need in the congregation.
I sometimes wonder if this is not all part of a king game the congregation has running to see whose complaint will actually cause a heart attack.
My wife is great and she will listen to me vent or whine or lament for as long as I need. But I watch the toll it takes on her to be able to do nothing about it other than be there for me and so I just bottle it up because I don’t want her harmed.
I can’t lash back at the complainer in the fashion they complain to me because… well, all my pastor colleagues on this thread know why. We just aren’t afforded that luxury.
Anonymous comments like these are cathartic because at least I get it off my chest and can come back to see if anyone has anything helpful to say.
All these issues were manageable for the most part per-pandemic. But in the middle of this mess with really no end in sight. The pressure is mounting. The pews are emptying. The giving is drying up. And everyone is looking to me to not only lead but to solve it and fix it all overnight.
I’m glad to see some parishioners lauding their pastors on here. If you read this and you don’t often compliment him. Call him as soon as you can and tell him. Be specific. When you leave this Sunday, don’t shake his hand and say ‘good sermon’. That’s almost a perfunctory action. Shake his hand and stop and tell him one specific thing he said that stood out to you. Or something he brought out from the text that helped you. Or even if he said something that triggered an unrelated issue you’ve been working through and whatever he said helped you get it resolved in your mind. Give him SOMETHING! but when you just say good sermon, you may as well have said nothing. Because the Pastor knows what you really mean is, ‘I don’t care enough about you or listen close enough to you or value preaching enough to say anything, now let me shake your hand, smile, and go get a table at a restaurant. Gotta be rude to the waitstaff and leave little to no tip for no reason.
Can someone please reply. I need some help.
SameGuy, about a decade ago, I was struggling with depression while I served an extremely toxic, dysfunctional church that was part of a three church parish that shared me. It was an extremely small church, where one family system had always “run” the church, and every pastor, including myself, was their target when things didn’t go the way they wanted them to or people would get fed up with their antics and leave the church. Things got to a point where after one meeting where we tried to diffuse the situation, members of the family were outside of my home while my wife and our infant son were on the front porch, taking gasoline cans out of the trunk of their cars, saying so my wife could hear “if things don’t go our way, we can always burn the place down.”
I could not afford to pay for counseling services, but knew I needed it for my own sanity, so I sought out a church affiliated Social Service agency in the next town over. They provided counseling services for me pro bono, and were a lifeline in my last months serving in that church before my family and I left later that year. I’d suggest a couple of things for you as you navigate this situation:
1) Go find a pastor you can trust (whether he or she is in the same denomination as you or not) and talk with that person and share your concerns. Pastors need a Pastor, too!
2) Go seek out counseling services. Do you have anyone you make referrals to that you trust? Is there a church run social services agency that has a counseling service you could inquire about? Some may be willing to provide services for you without cost.
3) Are you in a denominational system where there is some accountability/structure that you can reach out to for help, guidance, pastoral care for yourself and family, etc.? Could they have someone that could come in and talk about setting appropriate boundaries with the congregation? Sometimes congregations are willing to listen to such from someone from the outside looking in as opposed to you as the pastor. Also, if its a case where the situation is simply too toxic, the denominational structure may be able to help you transition from there to somewhere else that will be much healthier.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus rest with you.
Go find a counselor. Don’t worry about “biblical” or not. I was in a fairly toxic church and started to get depression. I went to a secular psychologist and she helped me immensely. If you’re serving faithfully, depression is not a result of spiritual fault. A good counselor will help you see your world more clearly, mine helped me finally admit that I had a co-dependent relationship with an abusive church. I left for a healthier church and my depression vanished. Not all churches deserve a pastor, and abusive churches should be treated like abusive husbands.
I wish I could go to a counselor but there’s no time and no money personally for me to go. No church funds for use by me because after all a Pastor only works one day a week…as I was ‘jokingly’ reminded last week… so what does he need counseling for ?
I pray for these pastors to endure this tough times. To really stick it out during this pandemic. The people need you! A black pastor preaching here in Houston, Pastor Keion, https://www.keionhenderson.com/about-us/ has been my life saver. I was so depressed but after attending one of his sermons, I came back to life and of course, into God’s grace!
It’s truly heartbreaking to hear of Pastor who are experiencing this ” trauma “, unfortunately I too am experiencing this issue. I have been Pastor of a small church that was birth 6 1/2 year’s ago, and at the start it seems as if everything was against it. I had Elder seasoned Pastors put a notice out on me, to not fellowship with me, so for the first two years I totally had to depend upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit for anything concerning pastoring the people. Because of my age at that time “33”, as older members connected to the church they treated me as if I were not old enough to oversee them. The church was growing at healthy rate, there were about 70 people in every Sunday morning attendance. Then came the tremendous attack, my own mother began to attack the strong supporters of the church, I was dismayed by the effect she had on them as they left due to the way she treated them, she left me, my heart was broken. Then it seemed like every quarter someone was leaving the ministry. I honestly say this, I gave my everything to the people, from personal time, to monetary support, graduations. There wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t do to help the people of God out. Now this is on top of having a wife a five children, I can honestly say now that I didn’t know balance and it took a toll on my family. We gave up vacations and spending time personally with one another to be at the peoples beckoned call, but they had absolutely zero problems no sacrificing for us. They would come in late and leave early, no tithing, so I personally kept the rent paid and lights on, which I didn’t mind at the time, but at least be in attendance. There’s been so many people that have came in and destroyed relationships and have caused problems, and people left. My marriage was destroyed, my daughter went rouge on the family and turned against me by spreading rumors around the city about me being a horrible father. Then there’s covid 19…and it like the bottom fell out. Some Sunday’s now since Easter Sunday, it could just be my wife and our 4 boys at church. I’m trying, I am tired, I’m exhausted, I’m frustrated, I’m angry and heartbroken at the same time. I’ve lost so much, putting everything into ministry. I’ve loved to the upmost, but never really got any returns from them. They didn’t even make mention of church anniversary last year,and before covid 19. Please keep me lifted up with prayer. I truly want to continue doing what I was called to do, but I do feel like QUITEING.
This story touched my soul. I am a young pastor (37) and wife mother of five. It seems as though a lot of our concerns on pastoral care, and sacrifice parallel. I wish that at some point people like us could speak to one another and counsel each other through the pain. I pray that you have the strength to continue and take each day at a time.
I am 77 years old and I am a four generation SDA. I have a rich background. I have taught in our SDA schools for 40 years! But I am not aware of our pastors being under so much criticism.
I wish my pastors took a greater interest in visiting in the homes of the church members. They need to get close to the people!!!