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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  • Phyllis Russo Petito says on

    I find the political conflicts in the church disturbing. The powerful intimidate the pastor to do and preach what they want to hear. The parishioners who want to hear the gospel of mercy, compassion and love are out of luck. We have a responsibility to show mercy for the poor and marginalized. A pastor’s job, a Christian church’s job is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ by word and action. Anything less is prostitution.

  • Linda Duncan says on

    This makes me very sad. The church is very important and must continue on! I believe that if we can just hold on and trust in God, that we will get through this and churches will be filled again. We are getting so many mixed messages about Covid, masks, and congregating, that we are confused. Our pastors are trying to fill our needs with online messages and sermons, and it is wonderful. But it is not the same as being in a building, worshipping God together. Even though we’re not attending church, we need to continue to support the church through all of this. Tithe and give like we did before!

    God is waking up a lot of people to the evils that have consumed our world, and we need Him more than ever. Let’s pray more for for pastors and support them. God bless!

  • Carolyn Ridlehuber says on

    I do see why pastors are discouraged. I am ashamed that so many church members complained to their pastor about minor issuses..
    My Pastor is Alex Henderson. He is a man who truly tries to preach God word to our members and those online.
    God has used Alex to bless Chestnut Ridge Church in Laurens S C. He may not be perfect but his heart is filled with love for Jesus Christ and for people who are lost and those who have spiritual needs.
    Sometimes people will tell you their problems but not their spiritual issues. I will be praying for Alex and all the pastors.
    May God reach down and surround all the pastors with His love and His wisdom.
    I pray that church members stop looking for things they do not agree with but show their pastors love and support.

  • I find this article disturbing…I have been acquainted with your org since “Simple Church”. I understand you make a living giving advice to churches with challenges and fully support that. However isn’t you saying “a vast majority of pastors you come into contact with” like saying “people who come into the emergency room speak to their doctors about illness”? It feels like you are creating fear to sell stuff? What percentage of all pastoral staff/staff in evangelical churches? And how serious are they…just thinking out loud? Belongings in the UHaul?
    I am bi-voc in a small church restart of 2yrs in March. We started with 23, and had ave of 42 in Feb b4 pandemic. Things going the right direction. Challenge is our facility is nice but small. We have to double service to get everyone back, triple to have room to grow. We have chosen instead to house church for now. We will see where God leads…but we need encouragement out here not doomsday. God is in control. He is not surprised by this. If He has called you He will make a way!

  • Dean Feldmeyer says on

    I was a pastor for 40+ years before entering the retirement phase of my ministry. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider resigning several times in those four decades. Here’s what kept me from quitting:
    1.) Self Care — Hobbies (especially music), exercise, regular check-ups keep me mentally, spiritually, & physically healthy.
    2.) Family — Immediate and extended, they always came first.
    3.) Community Involvement — The deeper you sink your roots, the harder it is to pull them up.
    4.) Friends — I had good, close friends I could count on for support.
    5.) Prayer and Study — Studying scripture, praying for strength and inspiration, preparing sermons. These kept me sane.
    6.) Calling — Ministry was the only thing I ever felt truly called to and I never doubted that I was pretty good at it.

  • Maybe these Pastor should seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit and let GOD lead them instead of looking at the temporal. They need to return to their knees and fight the battle there. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood!

  • Pastors and their families need our love and support all the time. They answered Gods call to love and Shepard His people and for that, we all should be very thankful. Our opportunity to speak a word of encouragement to all our staff members at church is something we should “always be doing”. It doesn’t cost any money to speak a word of encouragement and blessing to anyone, let alone the people God has called to strengthen His bride. So, everyone that is reading these comments, please send this out to as many emails you have to call, write, send a gift card , send flowers to your pastors wife, go and be a blessing to them in a very natural way.
    We are told that the means God gave us to win this battle, is prayer. Lets call 5 of our friends to call 5 of their friends and start praying every day for our pastors and their families.
    God gave us the answer “ take the shield of faith where you can quench “ALL” the fiery darts of the devil!
    Whether the darts are from whoever, we can quench them through prayer. Lets honestly pray daily for our pastors and their families. God will hear and answer

    • Such great words & perspective written above – I’m sending this out to many contacts in our congregation…thanks fir ccx sharing your helpful insight…

  • I left congregational ministry over two years ago and have not looked back. I am a health care chaplain now where I do actual ministry. Before I felt like a cruise director, trying to keep everyone happy.

  • Gareth Lane says on

    Of course the irony is that much negativity that pastors ever receive is from so called ‘maturer Christians’ who may have been Christians a fair length of time but unfortunately still have so much growing up to do! More Input and better teaching doesn’t make one maturer if it is never being output into society around then ‘maturer Christians’ unfortunately end up stagnating and it’s the pastors that have to smell and deal with the stench!

  • Some of us are being invigorated by discovering new ways to minister, new people seeking someone/something beyond them.
    ‘Be of good courage ‘ Jesus lives, loves and cares for us all. He knows our need for rest.
    Do not turn away from Him
    Trust Him.

  • Julie Bedford says on

    As a pastor’s wife, this is probably one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. And the majority of comments just added insult to already injured pastors’ spirits. I have come to believe (after nearly 40 years beside my good and faithful, yet humanly imperfect) husband’s side that the church culture is as mentally sick as the society around it. Churches are dying all around us; our Western “ideals” may be nearing their death knell; “good guys” continue to slaughter those who dare to stand up against evil; honest justice is being stripped away by the people in political power; peaceable conversations and happenings are nearly impossible, and we are all guilty of complacency wherever we personally reside in the “privilege” hierarchy. Again and again, I have observed churches’ and society’s willingness to sacrifice the messenger to preserve a status quo that is antiquated, short-sighted, and morally injurious to those it selects to lead them.

    To be certain this time of COVID-19 has been hard on every one of us. Yet, I am watching congregation after congregation take the fears and frustrations of this global crisis out on the very people trying desperately to provide some semblance of continuing care, leadership, and Bible-based education to their flocks. Your pastors (and their families and associates) are JUST AS HUMAN as each of you wish to be allowed to be! I might venture to guess that they detest this present circumstance even more than their members do. Hate not being able to safely meet in your sanctuary? Frustrated that your community outreach has been severely curtailed for not just health reasons, but also due to issues of the supply chain that supports any housing or feeding ministry? Sick of not being able to experience the joy of togetherness with your church friends and family of the heart? Bored out of your minds with no steady schedule and periods of human interaction, hugs, laughter, singing? It is NOT JUST YOU! Shove your personal self centered-ness aside and redirect your personal challenges away from your pastors. They are just humans like you… they felt a call to serve and they answered it. They answer it daily no matter the circumstance. They are desperately trying to honor their promises to God and to their congregants. Their phones are ringing all day long and often well into the night as their people need to process and talk about this current state of forced separation. Speaking for my own household, the counseling is never -ending right now: 7 days a week; 10-12 hours a day. Your pastors are worried about the oldest and weakest among their members: their health vulnerabilities, needs of every kind, and the deadly dangers of social isolation. In addition to being unable to physically get to them these days, they know too many can’t smoothly operate or interface with virtual contacts, online worship, or even opportunities for creative socialization. This is all a new circumstance for us. We need to stop gnashing our collective teeth and refocus on creative compassion… for everyone around us. We need to foster caring and patience in all our interactions with any other human being. We need to back off political divisiveness and learn to really listen to one another.

    God is among us. Christ has set the example. Together, they have charged us all to love one another… no matter our distances or differences or fears. We all need to take time daily to reach out in encouragement and in love, to resolve areas of struggle and even very real fear in small manageable steps and through patiently innovative spirits. Finger pointing and blame sows exactly zero seeds of growth and love.
    ~ Compassion is our answer. ~
    Compassion, patience, kindness, and love can lead us through. Take a deep breath. Do a reset. Soldier on. God promises that this, too, shall pass. Let us carry one another in this time ahead. And please… make room to appreciate your church leadership, your quiet faithful doers, AND YOUR PASTORS.

    • Julie, I appreciate your response. It is balanced and is not negatively defensive of the Pastor or His sacred work. Yes, we need to rekindle brotherly love and kindness toward each other and includes towards Pastors too. May the Lord bless and forgive us all for for our misdirected undermining and negativity. Blessings you and your husband’s ministry. God has called you and He will sustained those He has called. Amen

  • I pray this will be taken as as constructive criticism as it is intended to be
    Yeshua said…”on this rock I will build MY Church/Community, and the gates of hell/ Sh’ol will NOT overcome it.” Matthew 1618
    I believe the LORD is shaking HIS Church, as well as the world, and as many Pastors have compromised HIS Word in both word and deed, He is cleaning out HIS Church, thus preparing Her as a pure bride fit to receive her Husband. Yes, hard, but necessary!
    There needs to be much repentance RIGHT ACROSS the body of Messiah

    • Perhaps a few pastors might fit in this category. But I believe that largely it is the church that is unhealthy. God will not leave those He has brought into ministry, those with a true heart to share Him and do His will, languishing in a congregation who thinks they know what’s best and has made themselves a judge and jury of pastors as if they are all his or her boss instead of God being the One in charge. No. Jesus, Who once told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they were not properly received by those they went to (Matt. 10:14), will do the same for His disciples today. This may not apply to you personally. I don’t know you and your church, but in general, churches should not be comforting themselves that God is shaking out unhealthy pastors. They should be examining themselves to see if perhaps they have become so self-righteous, judgmental and insular, that God Himself is calling away the very means by which those in lukewarm Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-21) might be woken up and saved.

    • I agree Linda. The Lord is doing a mighty shaking, which is a good thing! Feel free to read about it in my blog and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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