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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Douglas Stites says on

    In December 2008, I suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurism followed by 2 brain surgeries. I thought I had health insurance, but they reneged. I was 4 weeks in ICU, 8 weeks in that hospital, 6 weeks in Hospice, 40 weeks in a nursing home where I started rehab. $800,000 took all of my retirement and even more which I did not have! The pastor who showed me this page arranged a benefit golf tournament where all the green fees went to pay down my debts. Saints from about 5 or 6 churches showed up to play. What a blessing!!!! Pastors do things like this and more every day, but people just do get to see it. HOWEVER the living God does see it every time!!!! I am 74 now and still in a lot of pain, but evangelism has become my new vocation. God was preparing me for something, praise his name! Thanks for you great observations!

    To all of those exhausted pastors, DO NOT GROW WEARY of Doing good. Your service as a layman is just as, if not more important., BUT STAY THE COURSE

  • Tim Aagard says on

    I quit 40 years ago. My reason isn’t listed. I found from the Bible that the professionalized version of “the Pastorate” is not in the Bible. It’s twisted to be in there, and assumed to be there by 500 years of tradition.
    Example 1: No hired Pastor, will “fully train” ANYONE to “be like him. Jesus instructed the OPPOSITE.
    Luke 6:40
    A disciple is not above his teacher,
    but EVERYONE when he is FULLY TRAINED
    will be LIKE his teacher.

    Example 2: One man lecturing the Bible every week is the OPPOSITE of “meeting together” by God’s instructions.
    Hebrews 10:24-25
    And let US (all of us)
    consider how
    to stir up ONE ANOTHER
    to love and good works,
    not neglecting to MEET TOGETHER,
    as is the habit of some,
    but encouraging ONE ANOTHER,
    and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

    It doesn’t take a Greek scholar to figure this out. It’s in plain English. It appears the BUBBLE of clergyism blinds very sincere believers from recognizing what is in front of their eyes.

    Example of Twisting: “Let the elders who rule well…” 1 Tim. 5:17
    The Greek word for rule is not here, and should not be translated here. Jesus used the Greek word for rule and forbade it’s practice among his people. Hired men who rule ruins body life and family life. The IDENTITY of the people of God is not what God created us to be.
    Matthew 20
    25 But Jesus called them to him and said,
    “You know that the RULERS of the Gentiles lord it over them,
    and their great ones EXERCISE AUTHORITY over them.
    26 It shall not be so among you.
    But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
    27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,
    28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,
    and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  • About your point #6: It’s not just that the digital workload has added about 10-15 hours a week to the work, but that for must of us the crisis counseling workload has increased dramatically. People who have marital issues, family issues, financial issues, addiction issues, etc. have all dramatically increased b/c it turns out that pandemics, race issues, and unemployment tend to exacerbate all of those struggles. So, while I’m trying to walk families through some of these issues, another member on the side is leading the rebellion and making false accusations that I honestly don’t even have time to respond to… If others aren’t defending you, then you really are done. And why can’t our one pastor do everything the mega church with 6 full time pastors can do? It’s honestly been eye opening, and impossible to deny.

    This is the absolute truth: “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.”

  • Pastors are human first, and the old man has been crucified with Christ. That doesn’t mean we won’t have temptations, trials, testings, as well as doubters and resistance from those unbelievers, as well as those who want to draw others away from the Gospel Truth, and church. Satan is a formidable enemy, but, we know Christ had defeated him and his goal. His power to tempt and destroy our testimony, still exists. But, our Lord is more powerful than he. God lives in us and has given us His Holy Spirit to deter and defeat his attacks. Be in Prayer, Worshipping our God, being Thankful for the Sacrifice of Jesus in our behalf. Read your Bible, fellowship with like minded believers, and, be willing to share what God has done for you. By Faith, you win every battle. By Faith you please God. By Faith you have Eternal Life in Christ and a Home with God when this life is over.

  • Makes sense completely! I don’t think I could understand someone who doesn’t recognize that our pastors are human just like the rest of us! If your tires, then 9 times out 10 … your pastor is also tired. We should all be sending prayers and encouragement to pastors. To let them know they rock and that we appreciate them! Love over all! Great read!

  • Beth German says on

    This does not surprise me at all. Stress exacerbates all aspects of our personalities and when we rely on our human reactions and don’t allow Christ to influence them as we should, well…the ugly in us just really shows itself. That has got to be discouraging for a pastor as he deals with negativity from the people who should be the ones supporting him. I see it daily in a Christian school setting. It’s why I’m weary of calling myself a Christian and grouping myself with those who are just not living for Jesus but themselves. I’m now calling myself a “Christ-follower” instead. And, it does make me wonder if the 25% who are “not going to return” feel the same way and are fed up with poor behavior by other “Christians.” We as believers had the opportunity to shine the light of Christ through this and sadly, the “Christians” overall have not done so.

  • Our Session Moderator was talking about the small pool of upcoming ministers due to financial reasons as well. He is also a professor of religious studies at a college. The trend seems to be going to part time ministry because being a pastor doesn’t pay the bills. Where 15 years ago, there were 20-25 students enrolling annually in Theological Seminaries, there are only 2-4 students enrolling. This is not a new concept in today’s world. Take, for example, truck drivers. The current aging drivers are setting up to retire, but qualified new drivers are scarce. Therefore the drivers hired don’t have experience and want an easy run, or no touch freight. I’m praying our Church can find a minister. We’ve been without for almost 4 years relying on a retired pool of ministers to lead us weekly. Thanks for this article, however, I believe there are more thank just 6 reasons.

    • Diana Emlet says on

      Many of the Bible Colleges are training pastors. The seminaries have also emptied because of the what they often teach. Even Billy Graham in the 50’s was shocked at how his seminary friends were being taught NOT to believe in the literal Word of God. Many are pastoring who were not necessarily called by God. And are they quitting by God’s directive? Or are they following their own will. It is probably the toughest call to pastor because of how congregation’s flesh gets going and the devil loves to instigate division and tear it all to pieces. We need to pray for our pastors for sure and also for our local Bodies. We are not to forsake the gathering together of ourselves. The gates of hell will not prevail against us who endure. Let’s commit to submitting to our pastors. They are the heads under Jesus, not us, of the local church.

  • Walk for Jesus International says on

    The pastor are not getting weary in well doing we hold tight to God’s unchanging hands. We are preparing the greatest revival the World has ever seen. See we support each other as one body.

    The Devil is a liar!

  • I’m sorry to hear this but I’m not surprised. I was thinking just the other day about all the demands on pastors especially in this time of crisis. They need our support and encouragement.
    Our pastor is amazing. He always has a smile and an encouraging word for everyone.
    I recently lost my wife and I drew so much strength and encouragement from him and my church family. They helped me and my family so much, I don’t know what we would have done without them. Our Pastor Paul met with or called on each of us daily, the church brought food and a sympathetic ear daily. We had her service in our church and the ladies cooked a meal for all who came to visitation. We had three pastors, one current and two former pastors come to the service. Two spoke eulogizing my wife. It was a beautiful service. Then Pastor Paul had to prepare for Sunday services the next day as well as call on and help some others who needed him. I am so grateful to all of those who have ministered my family over the years. Most never heard any words of encouragement from me. I hope they all know how much I love and appreciate them all.

  • Thank you for the article Thom! My perspective as a lay minister is different but I pray encouraging for pastors.
    First—NEWS FLASH—THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!! And they need to continue to work outside of the traditional building. The church didn’t grow in the synagogues of the early church, it grew in their neighborhoods and homes. The goal for disciples in ALL roles is to create more disciples and encourage them to discover the role God has for them in the world – with whom they are to be salt and light.
    Second – Pastors, those called to CARE for the followers of Jesus and those who seek him because they are broken, DON’T QUIT MINISTERING but if you are discouraged or burned out, please quit your job. God will show you to whom you are to minister and IT WILL refresh you!
    Lastly – ALL FOLLOWERS, whether you be in an official pastoral role or simply a layperson – LOVE your neighbors, both those who are physically near you and those who are in your phone and/or social media list. It can be taking a meal, writing a card, sending a text or IM and asking how you can pray for them or what is making them anxious or even what they are looking forward to about the fall. Simply asking “How are you?” Is not enough. Be specific in your question and understand the truth contained in the quote from The Italian Job “Fine stands for Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.” Beware if someone tells you they’re fine. They may be dealing with more than they believe you’re ready to hear.
    Blessings to you all as you continue to live and love like Jesus to all those He has for you to encounter!

  • I thought Jesus said to persevere to the end. Yes understandably the pandemic has changed the way the church operates in the world but is now the time to be leaving? I mean it sounds like they’re running away to be honest.
    Jesus’ told us things would get bad in the end so no surprise there…unless these pastors didn’t really believe what Jesus said.
    Even if these pastors walk away from the fold I believe God will hold them accountable. A shepherd doesn’t just leave his sheep to fend for themselves… I know Jesus never left His sheep. He never lost any the Father gave to Him except for Judas. It’s time for the pastors to start walking in the faith they preached about. I believe if they do they will find Jesus right beside them.

    • To EVERY PASTOR CALLED BY GOD, I want to personally “THANK YOU” for ALL you’ve given big or small in the building of God’s kingdom.
      I would like to share this story with you:
      My mom had a stroke, but still had her right mind and speech capabilities.
      So one day I was in a crisis that I needed advise and of course I went to her and she was despondent because her BODY weren’t in her favor, so she FELT she had the right to check out and quit being a mother, but I said this to her.
      “You don’t get to QUIT because your BODY is going through STAGES OF TRANSITIONS, because your God created you to be a MOTHER, and your mind and your speech is still in tack,so that stroke didn’t paralyze your call as a mother, and it is a life time call just as Jesus was call to be Jesus and didn’t come down off that tree in the midst of His crucifixion, He remained Jesus”
      PASTORS, … I want to encourage you to REMAIN in your CALL
      Here are a few scriptures to meditate on & encourage you
      1Cor.15:58, Ps.55:22, Matt.11:28, 2Cor.4:16-18, Romans 12:2, John16:33, James5:16-18, Col.3:23, Is.40:31
      Please consider you didn’t answer the CALL to the BODY, but you answered the CALL unto the Lord and HE IS WITH YOU and FOR YOU.
      This too shall pass.

      Peace & Blessings, Lisa

    • Dorothy Campbell says on

      I agree 100% with this man. A pastor was called by God to take care of His sheep, not run away and leave them to fend for themselves. Sheep are helpless without their Shepherd. If they were TRULY called by God to the ministry, God will hold them accountable for their Sheep (people). The Covid has not been any harder on them than on their sheep(members).. Most pastors are paid good salaries, more than many of their members. If I was a pastor called by GOD, I would never give up on my calling. The price may be higher than they want to pay! I have been a believer since I was 13 years old and am now 87. I have been blessed to be taught God’s word by many Pastors, but if I thought my Pastors wanted to quit, I would be very disappointed with them and fearful of God’s discipline on them.

      • Most Pastors are paid good salaries? Are you kidding? The Pastorate in the average church is one of the most underpaid positions one can hold. Now, that’s all fine because no good Pastor is in it for the money anyway. But there is a terrible notion among some churches that if you keep a Pastor poor, you keep him humble. It’s a terrible way to think and has caused much damage. The covid situation has been hard on everyone, but Pastors not only are having to deal with their own issues surrounding covid and such but also look to the interests of those in their church who are suffering from this as well. Very few people concern themselves with anyone besides themselves. Pastors don’t get to do that. These men aren’t running away. They are worn out because as much as you and others want to talk about perseverance, you seem to forgotten what the Scripture says about not making it a burden for your Pastor to shepherd you, but rather submit willingly and accordingly. (Hebrews 13:17). Call your Pastor up and genuinely find out how he and his family is doing. If he’s worth his pulpit, he’s probably called you up many times for the same reason.

1 11 12 13 14 15 23