Leaders Need to Recharge:
Pastors are leaving the ministry.
Consider these stats (compiled by Shepherds Watchmen, August 11, 2019)
- 1,500 clergy leave the ministry each month
- 61% of congregations have forced a pastor to leave
- 83% of clergy spouses want their spouse to leave the ministry
- 50% of pastors indicated that they would leave the ministry if they had another way of making a living
- 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
Why Are Pastors Leaving the Ministry?
This year (2021), the U.S. saw an inflation rate of 6.8% (the most significant increase since 1982). Yet many pastors will receive only a 1.5 to 2% pay increase. This means most U.S. pastors will be working harder and making less.
Many of the pastors I meet with or talk with are burning out.
- Some want to walk away from ministry.
- Some feel unwanted and unloved by the congregation they serve.
- Others feel like their marriage is such a mess it is beyond repair.
Think about this; Pastors went to a seminar to have the answers for life, yet they don’t have the answers for THEIR life, their family.
What is Causing Pastors to Leave?
There are countless reasons why pastors leave the ministry. I want to name a few, not the surface issues but deeper character issues.
- Connecting with others – pastors connect with the church family every week. Yet, many have no one they can go to (outside the church) with their personal life. They have few or no trusted advisors in their life. Technically, they are isolated from healthy people. They are a closed system that will run down over time.
- The Ability to Say No – pastors are notorious for overextending themselves. Many cannot tell people, “No, that doesn’t work for me.” Instead, they give away their “Yes” to everyone and anyone in the church and tell the counselors and coaches who are for them “No.” This is upside-down thinking!
- Living in Reality – pastors who don’t embrace reality live in fantasy land. What does this mean? Living, in reality, means we ask the hard questions on why, what, and how their personal, professional, and relational life is going. After collecting REAL data points on their lives, they adjust to move forward and grow. However, many pastors who are burning out or leaving ministry are not dealing with the truth of their life. So, they ignore it, medicate (drugs or alcohol abuse), indulge in sexual addictions, rage, and have outbursts of anger, depression, work harder and longer, and on and on.
- Honing their skills – at some point, due to the demands of ministry, pastors stop honing their skills and investing in themselves. I remember taking a pastor to Israel a few years ago. It changed his life. It brought NEW energy and ministry excitement to him. After returning to ministry, he started a ministry series about his Israel trip (it lasted a year and a half – He loved it, and so did his congregation).
- Becoming an Adult in their Sexuality – being a pastor isn’t just about knowing the scriptures. It’s also about understanding their boundaries. As Dirty Harry says, “A man has to know his limitations.” The pastor with a fully developed adult character is “grown up sexually.” They can have friends with the opposite sex, and it not be sexual. They have developed self-control and appropriate boundaries with sexuality.
If you’re a pastor, take an honest assessment of your inner character. What caught your attention in this post? What step will you take this week to be responsible for your growth (because no one else will be responsible for it)?
If you’re friends with a pastor, what hard truth do you need to share with him because you see that they are burning out in ministry?
Did You Know
Did you know Terry is a former pastor? He loves helping pastors reach their professional, relational, and personal goals.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner (2006). A Leader’s Legacy. Jossey-Bass Publishing.
Cloud, Dr. Henry (2009). Changes That Heal: Four Practical Steps To A Happier, Healthier You. Zondervan Publishing.
Cloud, Dr. Henry (2006, January). Integrity, The Courage To Face The Demands Of Reality. Harper-Collins Publishing.