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I've Made A Huge Mistake

10 Reasons Why People Leave Their Church Job After 18 Months Or Less

10 Reasons Why People Leave Their Church Job After 18 Months Or Less


One of my favorite all-time binge-watches is a show called Arrested Development. (That probably tells you a lot more about me than you really need to know). Arrested Development is the “story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.”


The Bluth family in the storyline is far from perfect.  In fact, one of the reoccurring lines throughout the whole series is this:


“I’ve made a huge mistake”.


Everyone in the show says this line repeatedly throughout the series.


Each week, our team at Chemistry Staffing interviews a large number of candidates for available church job openings.


And each week, we hear candidates say, in some way, shape or form: “I’ve made a huge mistake”.


We talk to a lot of candidates that have accepted a church job in the past 18 months, only to be looking again now. Obviously, things didn’t work out for one reason or another and they’ve been confronted, head-on, with the realization that they’ve made a major career mistake.


Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say, but as we listen to candidates, here are some of the things that we hear most often from candidate’s short stints at a church job that didn’t work out. 


Perhaps we could all learn from them:


  1. “I took the job out of desperation”
  2. “Deep down, I knew the fit wasn’t right”
  3. “I didn’t ask the right questions”
  4. “I asked the right questions but ignored the answers”
  5. “We just didn’t agree on “____________”.
  6. “The church didn’t do what they said they would do”
  7. “The church didn’t have enough money to pay me”
  8. “The stress was too much for my family”
  9. “The pastor was a jerk”
  10. “The job was nothing like described”


This post is not to shake a finger at anyone that has had a bad church job experience.  In fact, nearly EVERYONE I’ve talked to has uttered one of the previous ten things at one time or another in their ministry.  


I know I have.


Ministry (and churches) can be brutal.


So… what do we advise candidates that are contemplating taking a new job so soon after their last hire?


We ask them a series of six short questions:


  1. How are you doing?
    No really.  How are you REALLY doing? Are you mad? Sad? Stressed? Burned out?

  2. How is your spouse doing?
    Many times your job situation affects your spouse WAY more than you can imagine. Many times we see spouses that are so angry at the way their partner has been treated that they don’t want to have anything to do with a new church.

  3. What have you learned?
    Seriously. What part of this short-term failure was on you? What did you learn? What do you need to take responsibility for?

  4. Are you ready to get back into ministry?
    Do you need some time off doing something ‘non-church’ while you recover and repair your soul? Jumping back into ministry sometimes is the last thing you should do. Even if you’re specifically called, seasons away from ministry can provide refreshment, perspective, and renewal.

  5. Are you SURE you’re ready to get back into ministry?
    No really. Are you able to step into a new ministry right now? (Also, refer back to question 2… is your SPOUSE ready?).

  6. What are you doing differently this time around?
    What are you doing to avoid the mistakes/problems you encountered this time around? If you don’t know how to answer this, go immediately back to question 3 until you find your answer.


You see, it’s ok to have a bad stint in ministry.


But if you don’t learn from it, you are most likely bound to repeat it.


At Chemistry, we’re all about ‘long-term health’. When we interview candidates, we’re ideally looking for someone that is such a great fit in theology, culture, personality, and skills that they will be able to stay at a particular church for at least five years.


That’s when the really fruitful ministry usually starts.


Are you looking to change positions?  Regardless of how long you’ve been where you’re at, I would encourage you to start with the six questions listed above.  Honestly answering those questions will be the starting point of a great fit for your next ministry season.


Questions?  I’d love to start a conversation with you.  Just email me at Todd.Rhoades@ChemistryStaffing.com.




PS -- Hey… churches are guilty of this as well. Many churches churn through staff every 18 months. We’d like to help you learn how to correct that pattern by asking you a similar set of questions.  We’d love to start a conversation with you

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Todd Rhoades

Todd Rhoades

Todd has invested over 30 years in serving churches, having served as a worship pastor for over 15 years, a church elder for more than a decade, and in various ministry leadership roles in both the business and non-profit sectors. As the original founder and developer of ChurchStaffing.com, Todd fundamentally changed the way thousands of churches search for pastors and staff on the internet. Todd is a graduate of Cedarville University, and lives in Bryan, OH with his wife, Dawn.

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