Six Reasons Your Pastor Is About to Quit

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.

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.
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  • I have been in the ministry almost 50 years. Yes there is more work since the pandemic. I am very blessed that 90% of my people attend church weekly with masks. I am encouraged regularly through personal comments and written notes. I have no idea of quitting. At 76 years old I intend to die with my boots on. The extra work is tiring, but well worth it.. my people are learning so many new things and their faith is deepening.

  • I am a Senior Pastor of an SBC church in the Florida Panhandle. I developed symptoms of Covid19 in late June and was diagnosed July 1st with Covid19 and pneumonia. I was very sick, but the worst waa yet to come as it cascaded into Covid related pancreatitis. I was flat on my back for 23 days and unable to eat anything for 13 days. As the Psalmist said, “My strength was gone.” We had reopened in May and the signs were encouraging. We had 2 Sunday AM services to accommodate social distancing. Between the 2 AM services, we had numbers very close to pre Covid attendance. Then, just after Father’s Day, the virus spread in our Church (and me) and community, forcing another shift back to online services only. Since we have returned to the same 2 service model, we are fortunate to be at 1/2 our attendance and we had a near disastrous July financially. The bright side is that, in my 20+ year ministry as a Senior Pastor, I’ve never served a Church that was more supportive. The issues that you discussed in the article have not surfaced at all. Yes, people are frustrated, but they see the problem for what it is and have trusted me as their leader through it. I thank the Lord every day for the Church He has blessed me to Pastor.

  • Sending prayers. “Brace yourselves”.

  • Great words Thom, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It has been incredibly hard, and increasingly taxing to pastor in this season. It’s comforting to know someone has a finger on the pulse of a pastor.

    Do you have any solid %’s?

  • Bill Miller says on

    Thanks for this very valuable article. We can no longer “play church”. Every person in the church must recognize they they are ALL ministers of the Gospel. The pastor is not the only servant of God, every Christian is a servant of God and all of us together are the temple of God in which God is carrying out His will or we are not Christians at all.

  • I need you. I need you to remind me of my faith, the power of love, and hope for the future ! I need you to be there to pull us together, even though it’s as hard as herding cats. I need the community of faith that lifts me up and shows me they care – even though we are all different. There is no place in our society that speaks to our souls. Don’t leave me.

  • Theresa Arita says on

    What can we Christians do to help refresh and encourage our pastors? What do they say they need? We can pray of course, but what else? I appreciate your article-just wonder about the solutions.

  • Great observation Tom.
    And great revelational perspective, Doug.
    I’ve learned. It’s time to run back to God and towards our fellow ministers with this reminder and more encouragement then.
    Thanksfor sharing GentleMen.

  • Praying for my fellow Pastors! Stay with it…’s worth it.

  • You need a different pastor anyway if they quit for any other reason than because God told them to.

  • A called pastor doesn’t quite the ones who do qere mommy called and daddy sent.

  • Douglas Holland says on

    If you look at NASCAR racing, the cars typically loose it in the curves. Our nation is in a curve now; especially ministerial. As ministers, our job has always been to preach ourselves out of a job. We have been given the responsibility to make disciples, equip the saints, and raise up strong Christians that can be witnesses even in the harshest environments. I have been in ministry myself for the last 20 years. I believe that the last 20 years of ministry has produced many ministers that have gone into ministry for the wrong reasons. Going into ministry was never supposed to be about flashy pulpits and celebrity mindsets. According to Paul, ministry was a service that cost you something. He experienced loss as far as worldly goods through his ministry. He was rejected, persecuted and eventually died. I personally believe God is allowing this to happen because he is putting leaders in place that will make the sacrifices like Paul did. God is treating today’s church like he treated Gidian’s army. Gidian May have started with 10000 but ended up with 300. God has a remnant and some of this other stuff could be a distraction to keep the world from seeing pure genuine faith filled ministry. Paul did not go to his ministry field with words of men’s wisdom but with demonstration and power. Those days are about to come back to the church again. The Holy Spirit is doing more today than He ever has before.

    • Weekend messages seldom contain explanations of what happens when someone becomes a Christian. That is, the explosive wonder of “the new creation . . . “, detailed in II Corin. 5:17. Missing, too, are persuasive encouragements to reach out to our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives that do not yet know Jesus. Then we seldom hear that we should not be killing the unborn, and we all too frequently look upon the homeless and just throw up our hands in bewilderment, because we don’t seem to know what to do, or perhaps we just don’t want to know what to do.

      As regrettable as it might be, maybe we’d be better off if the pastors that are described above leave and they’re replaced by some fiery Associate Pastors that see that we should do things differently.

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