Last week we looked at some regrets pastors articulated about leaving their churches during “the Great Resignation.” In this article, we look at the other side of the coin. These pastors are glad they left pastoral ministry. Anecdotally, these comments were far more numerous than the comments of regret.
In this post, we specifically focus on pastors who left vocational ministry altogether. Some took early retirement; more of them took a job in the secular world. Though we do not have a valid statistical sampling, these comments are in order of frequency.
1. “The pressure is gone.” The most common comment was a general statement. Pastors could feel a burden lifted when they left. Many of them said it took about a month before they could sense the pressure abating.
2. “My family likes me now.” Most of the pastors indicated that their family benefitted greatly from this move. It was typical of former pastors to point out specifically that their spouses benefitted the most.
3. “Marketplace ministry is more fruitful than the pastorate.” Many pastors expressed amazement at how open co-workers were to ministry and to the gospel.
4. “My family had its first uninterrupted vacation in four years.” Some of the interruptions during previous trips were by phone. Others actually caused them to leave their vacations.
5. “I don’t jump now when the phone rings.” Many of these pastors especially flinched at late night or early morning calls. Those were typically someone calling the pastors to notify them of a tragedy involving church members.
6. “I don’t dread looking at my emails or social media now.” Such are the locations where many of the critics of the pastors resided.
7. “I actually am taking time to get closer to God.” Sadly, many pastors were so busy being pastors that they were too exhausted to spend sufficient time in prayer and in the Bible.
8. “I have a hobby now!” One pastor told us that he had forgotten the joy of reading books for pleasure until he quit vocational ministry.
9. “I needed a break from the weekly grind of sermon preparation.” Most people simply cannot fathom that pastors spend as much as 1,000 hours a year in sermon preparation.
10. “I get to come home at night.” It is not uncommon for pastors to have four or five weeknight commitments a week. One former pastor shared with us that he and his wife have resumed date nights once a week. It had been three years since they went on a date.
It is easy for us looking from the outside to think pastors should be able to get their acts together and have uninterrupted vacations, go on dates with their spouses, or read books for pleasure. But I would not be too quick to judge these former pastors.
Serving as a pastor of a local church can be grueling work. Such is the reason many pastors were glad to leave.
Posted on May 16, 2022
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 prayed and discussed my thoughts about me retiring from ministry as a principal and senior lecturer after 25 of full time work.
I am now praying and planning to serve as a Church consultant. Can I be assisted in any way possible?
As a Deacon/Elder/Conseilleur Presbyteral over 55 years, I became very conscious that, when a Pastor looks after multiple Churches, you risk being not fully aware of all that the Pastor is undertaking in the “other” Churches. This became tragically obvious when a much-loved Pastor had a major heart attack from which he eventually died. We had not been aware of everything in which he had become involved, both within our own Churches and the ecumenical scene. I still feel guilt about that and try to get them to back off a bit. At the best of times, a full time post is rather overfull time and a part time post is anything but!
I would be interested to see in what types of jobs are former pastors finding employment
I re-careered from the pastorate to teaching in a Christian school. I still get to teach the Bible, equipping young saints for the work of the ministry. The great thing for me is that I am not “in charge”. My nights and weekends are free with the exception of school sports and activities that I choose to attend. My goal is to be the kind of church member that I always wanted to have whenever I was a pastor. And to be clear, God did bless me with many good church members through the years, but there were also some others that made my life miserable! I am thankful that God blessed me with the vocation that I have.
This list makes me very grateful for the church family I serve!! While the pressure is ALWAYS there, and about every 4 years we seem to have a brief season (3-4 months) of jumpiness with the phone rings, I am usually overwhelmed with the grace of God that allows and empowers me to serve the church and community to whom God called me 22 years ago. My church family and our ministry staff keep most of my vacations uninterrupted. My kids grew up loving the church and are serving in ministry as young adults. My evenings are rarely interrupted, though as empty nesters now my wife and I enjoy serving families together with some of our evenings. Though a sabbatical will likely be needed at some point, I pray the Lord will allow me to serve until He calls me home. I also hope that in this second half I can encourage other churches to bless their pastors in a way that helps keep them in the ministry!
It’s great to hear your story, Robert. Pray for those in ministry who do not have those same blessings.
Absolutely! And will look for opportunities to encourage my brothers and their families.
It seems to be “facts” from what pastors experience in pastoral ministry at a local church. However, Pastoral work is ministry for those gifted as shepherds. There are many who are serving in contrast to what God has gifted them. Let those missionaries, evangelist and any different ministry from shepherd serve not in pastoral ministry at a local church
Sermon preparation takes a lot of time if done correctly. I had a law enforcement officer who is a friend to my son-in-law ask me how much time I spent in sermon preparation. When I told him that it could be between 10-15 hours he was amazed. He then told me that another pastor had told him almost the same thing. If we could only get some of the people in our church to understand the importance of digging into the Word, we would have so much less animosity. In my current church the main problem I deal with is that every time we go on vacation a bunch of garbage gets started. As soon as I arrive back, I have to dig into the mess and figure our what the problem is at that moment. As is usual, it is usually something petty that could have easily been addressed if people would just follow the outline of Matthew 18:15-17.
I want to thank you for this post which affirms a number of things that I felt when I left pastoral ministry at the age of 61 to pursue a new direction in my life in my “early retirement” which I would rather call my “redirection.” At that time, I felt led into becoming a church consultant with a focus on helping the small church. I also made myself available to supply preach on a regular basis. I also was able to be freed up to lead a number of workshops and retreats along with teaching a number of courses for our denomination’s lay study program. I also have worked in our region with helping churches in the pastoral search process.
I share this because I just celebrated my 70th birthday and while I miss the people (I served in my last church for nearly 19 years), I can honestly say that I do not regret leaving the pastoral ministry. These past nine years have freed me up to utilize my gifts in a new way with much less stress. I am really enjoying serving the Lord in a fresh and new way.
The exciting thing is that I have never lacked opportunities to be involved in ministry at a pace that is less hectic and much more freeing. The Lord has allowed me to connect with a greater number of people in their various church settings and it has been a joy watch their response. While I do not regret my many years as a pastor, I am glad to be in the place where God has led in the current phase of my life.
One more comment: I never realized ministry could be so much fun!
Thank you for your faithful and joyous service, Steve.
In 1985 I left full time ministry as a support person and went bivocational. It was such a freeing type of move, and although my first move was not the right one in less than a year I found where I belonged in the secular world. As an insurance agent it worked hand in hand with ministry, especially as a life insurance agent. Thank you for your guidance brother Thom
That is so great to hear, Johm.
I know this is going to sound horrible, but I know my time as a bi-vocational pastor is coming to an end in the next 3-5 years… I have NO idea what the next steps look like, but the toll it’s taken on me (physically and emotionally) and on my marriage and family have been significant…
I LOVE getting to preach and teach, but I’m just running out of energy… and sometimes patience… and sometimes grace. And that’s not helping anyone.
I just prayed for you and your family, Jason.
I went from being a church pastor to being a correctional chaplain about ten years ago. Believe it or not, I’ve been treated better in a correctional environment than I did in church. Also, when I am off work, I am OFF! That time belongs to my family.
I recall one time when I was pastoring that I dreaded going to Walmart because I didn’t want to run into people from church who were either mad at me or wanted to discuss the “church drama” of people who were mad at me. I couldn’t get away from it.
I understand fully.
I think the pastor’s formation it’s going wrong for years…my only problem as pastor it’s the money issue and family who didn’t understand what a pastor was and I couldn’t explain to them cause I didn’t know how.