A Chemistry Conversation with Roy Yanke
These days, it seems like pastors burn out or get out, but either way they’re out. Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing and Roy Yanke the Executive Director of Pastor-in-Residence Ministries, have an open conversation about “why” pastors are leaving the ministry and how to embrace the “fires of challenges and trials” to stay the course.
These last few years have been a difficult journey for all church leaders. And sometimes we need to say, “help me, I’m drowning!” Pastor-in-Residence Ministries offers tools to build stamina, a healthy soul, and improved relationships.
While serving as a Regional Director for PIR Ministries, Roy interacted daily with pastors who are in need of a fresh dose of the message of restoration and renewal in Christ. Now as the Executive Director of Pastor-In-Residence Ministries he has taken the reigns of a healthy ministry that helps coach healthy Pastors.
Roy and his wife, Deb, have been married for over 40 years and have one married daughter. Roy is an ordained ruling elder and regular teacher at Grace Chapel EPC in Michigan.
As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States!
Read the Full Transcript
Matt Steen: Well hey y’all, it’s Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, and this is another Chemistry conversation. Today, I’m excited. Roy Yanke is joining us. Roy is the Executive Director of Pastor-in-Residence Ministries, which is a phenomenal organization that I’ve been learning about more and more over the last six months. They do some great work with pastors that are in seasons of transition and change and helping them to prepare to go back into ministry. Roy, thanks for taking some time to talk.
Roy Yanke: Absolutely, thanks for having me on, Matt.
Matt Steen: First off, if you would, give us the real quick nutshell version. What is PIR? What do you guys do and who do you guys serve?
Roy Yanke: We’re all about promoting and helping pastors and as an adjunct church leaders develop a culture of ministry health. So we’re all about ministry health. Whether that’s a pastor who’s been in transition and needs to be restored to health or whether it’s a pastor who is in need of renewal. Getting back to a level of health, that’s what we’re all about. The piece of that that we want to make sure that we always emphasize is that there’s hope for that. A lot of times, pastors in times of discouragement, in times of transition lose sight of hope. We want to make sure they see that.
Matt Steen: That’s a great word because when we are in transition or when we are in a rough season in our congregation, it seems like that’s all we see, right?
Roy Yanke: Right, absolutely. Yeah.
Matt Steen: Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Like I said, I’m so grateful to have started to learn more about your and grateful for the work that you guys are doing. You guys are working with a ton of pastors all over the country. I’m sure that in this current season that we find ourselves, I can only imagine some of the things that you’re learning about the church. Share with us a little bit about what you’re learning these days.
Roy Yanke: Depending on who you talk to, the state of pastors is really good or the state of pastors is in apocalyptic…
Matt Steen: No middle ground.
Roy Yanke: Yeah. So this is what we’re learning and what we’re seeing when we interact with pastors. Fundamentally during this time, whether they have entered into a time of transition or they’re staying put, they’re just tired. They are absolutely fatigued. Decision fatigue has taken its toll. We’re finding that they’ve heard all the webinars, the blogs, the podcast on how to stay healthy and not be burned out and all the rest of that. And in some cases, it hasn’t really touched that level of fatigue that they’re experiencing. Relationships, which is a big part of what we do, whether it’s one on one or groups, is really fundamental. That’s the big piece that’s been missing. Those in-person relationships, being able to sit across from somebody and talk and really just share from your heart what’s going on and have that hope be spoken into your life and not mediated through the screen or through a telephone or something like that.
Matt Steen: So the combination of just the craziness that has been this last year - reducing travel, reducing the ability to be in person. Plus it seems like this has been a season where pastors have their shields up on who they’re able to go there with and really share with. Seems like those relationships are drying up. Is that what you’re seeing? Or am I one of the doom and gloom guys that you’re talking about?
Roy Yanke: No, no. And the doom and gloom in many cases is real. I would not minimize that. Pastors are finding that they can’t have those kinds of conversations where they might have had them even with their leadership in the church or significant folks in the church, this huge divide. There was a study done probably three or four months ago that talked about the six-way fracturing of the evangelical church.
Matt Steen: Yes, yes.
Roy Yanke: Hugely informative and very descriptive of what pastors are facing because that impacts the kind of conversations that they can have. You can’t really be open because you aren’t sure how that’s going to be received. So there’s just a dynamic of a lack of intimacy. There’s tremendous amount of isolation.
Matt Steen: Yeah. So that piece that you’re taking about, we’ll link to that down below. That’s kind of shifted how we do some of our placements even. We’ve started to introduce some of that language into some of our onboarding, into some of our interviews specifically, because of the way that things are changing and the way that different streams in the church these days seem to do more talking passed each other than talking with each other.
Roy Yanke: For sure.
Matt Steen: So how are you - and I hope you’ve got the answer for this, no pressure. How are you coaching guys that you’re talking to with the fracturing that we’re experiencing? How are you coaching them to walk with their congregations in this season? And how are you coaching them to find those relationships that are life giving?
Roy Yanke: We’re spending a lot of time talking to them about caring for their own soul. And then the fact that they need to continue to lean into that because their ministry life has to come out of their life in Christ first. That’s the fountainhead for everything that they do. And as they’re trying to navigate this and find the ways to have conversations or to avoid them if they need to avoid them, try to stay focused on Jesus as much as possible. To be calling God’s people over and over again to that core commitment that we have as a church. And be patient. In many ways, I think what we’re seeing too is another level of sanctification that is happening in the lives of leaders. We’re going through the fire of challenges and trials, right? So that always has a sanctifying effect on us. We can either buck against that or we can lean into it. Just did a retreat for some pastors this last weekend talking about joy. Which is a short commodity these days as well. But the idea that when James talks about consider it all joy, he’s talking about being governed by joy - that’s what the word means - during times of trial. Well, how do you do that? It’s the idea that the fire is meant to transform us and transform our expectations. That’s a little bit of what we talk to pastors about. This is a time to really evaluate your expectations.
Matt Steen: Really evaluate expectations. There’s probably a piece of that where we need to be a little bit more patient and forgiving of ourselves, I’m guessing.
Roy Yanke: Yeah, for sure.
Matt Steen: We try, but we don’t do a good job of that, do we?
Roy Yanke: No. We are always pedal to the metal.
Matt Steen: So as you’re wading through this season with people, I’m sure there’s pieces of this you’re kind of looking off on the distance. What are you seeing that we probably should start thinking about now before it’s too late?
Roy Yanke: I think that we are anticipating - we hope it’s not true, but we are anticipating a larger number of exits from ministry. We’re already starting to see a little bit of that. Interesting that our sense so far as we talk to pastors and we kind of keep our thumb on the pulse of things is that during the pandemic there hasn’t been a lot of movement. Unless it’s been a very acute conflict position where someone has had to leave because they just couldn’t do it anymore.
Matt Steen: Yeah.
Roy Yanke: And so there’s the sense of staying put to help the church navigate during this time. But the chronic conditions are starting to show up and pastors are starting to transition out. Some are transitioning out completely. Others are moving into a more bi-vocational - and that’s really what we’re seeing is this slow shift toward more bi-vocational work. Churches can’t afford to pay pastors full time anymore because of the pandemic and the financial impact of that. Then again, it’s unique to each church. So there’s all of these kinds of moments - more bi-vocational, more actual transition out. And we expect that to accelerate, we really do.
Matt Steen: Yeah. I think March and April was when we started seeing the exodus. Man, I’ll tell you, and you’re probably seeing this too, but there’s people that I was convinced where ministry-lifers that are selling real estate right now.
Roy Yanke: Yeah. Pastors returning to work that they maybe did before or while they were in seminary or in another period of transition. Yeah, for sure.
Matt Steen: So curious, and this is probably unfair because I didn’t prep you for this question. But as you interact with guys, do you see this as a working sabbatical for a lot of these guys where they come back? Or do you think they’re done done?
Roy Yanke: It’s hard to tell. I think it’s a little early to really figure that out. It remains to be seen whether they just step out for a while and then come back. Some of them have been through the ringer so many times, this is just the capstone on it, and they’re really done done. Others maybe they have a little bit more resilience, but they just need a break.
Matt Steen: Yeah. We coach guys a lot of times, ministry’s going to be there. It’s okay to take a breath.
Roy Yanke: Absolutely. Sometimes we feel like… well, I think each individual has to approach this in the best way that they can. But to see it as sinful or wrong to step out for a period of time is really not -
Matt Steen: That’s not the voice of God.
Roy Yanke: No, it’s not.
Matt Steen: That’s a good word. When we do job seeker bootcamp, one of the first conversations we have with people is, hey, is God calling you into ministry in this season or not? And part of the conversation is just saying, it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to push pause for a season.
Roy Yanke: Absolutely. And some people find out during this time - with some help, and this is one of the things that we do. We have an assessment tool that can help along these lines. When we coach pastors who are looking at the transition or for a change, the shape of the calling can change. You may discover that what you once did isn’t exactly the best fit for you or, as you said, it does need to change for a period of time. So there’s that lateral move happening too where now you’re not in a lead pastor role, but now you’ve moved over into counseling or coaching or something like that.
Matt Steen: So is there a way that you walk with guys through that? I know there’s a way that you walk through, but so many guys right now, like we said, they’re feeling a little beat up, a little raw, been through a really rough season. How do you begin to discern that maybe my call is shifting a little bit? How do you walk with guys through that?
Roy Yanke: A lot of listening. We try to listen well. We encourage them to enter into a coaching environment for a period of time where we can ask those questions and start to poke at that a little bit and try to help them see for themselves, what exactly is it that I’m feeling or thinking. Or where do I see God leading me at this time? And as I said, we have an assessment tool called Pro D Assessments. It’s a really cool tool to help anybody in leadership figure out what’s the best role fit for them. So if they can reflect back on or reflect on the current situation that they’re in and say, alright, that doesn’t quite line up with how God has put me together. And we always say that God’s got the final say in all of this because He can put people in places where to a human being it doesn’t seem to make sense. But it can really help them sort through that and figure out, okay, maybe I need to make a different kind of move. I’ve seen that in the pastor in residence program. We’ve worked with pastors who have been transitioned out. They are really discouraged, wondering where God was through all of that. So taking them through that process of which the Pro D Assessments is a part, and they suddenly have the freedom in that period of time to ask the question, well maybe this needs to look differently. And we’ve had that happen.
Matt Steen: Yeah. So it sounds like it’s a few things. It’s getting the space to exhale and not have to worry about all the stuff that’s battering you from each side, but also having the willingness to have some outside sets of eyes in and really speak into the situation and walk through it. We don’t do a good job of giving ourselves permission to think about those types of things, right?
Roy Yanke: Right, that’s really true. It’s one of the biggest struggles that we have in working with pastors in transition is that often they won’t see the value of that time. It’s just, everything’s blown up. The wheels have fallen off. Now, what am I going to do. Not dismissing the reality of that, but the idea that, oh, wait a minute, this could be a gift as well where I now have the time and the space to really look at the trajectory of God’s call on my life.
Matt Steen: That time and space can be quite a gift.
Roy Yanke: Like you said, we won’t give ourself permission to do that most of the time.
Matt Steen: Yeah. That’s a shame because we’re typically the first one to extend that kind of grace to other people in our congregation, right?
Roy Yanke: Oh, for sure. We preach that, teach that, disciple that all the time. Doesn’t apply to me, sorry.
Matt Steen: Exactly, exactly. Well Roy, for everybody listening to this today that’s serving in a church or even people that are in a congregation, what encouragement would you share with pastors, church leaders, or whoever is listening to this?
Roy Yanke: You’re doing good work. Don’t give up on it. This is really a stretching - maybe even a sifting - time for us in our culture. There’s nothing wrong with asking the questions that can maybe lead to greater health, a new trajectory, a better sense of the shape of God’s calling on your life. I think one of the things that we keep talking to pastors - so when pastors are in transition especially, what I find great joy in is sitting across the table from a pastor and saying, God’s not done with you yet. I don’t know what that’s going to look like going forward, but I can absolutely tell you that He’s not done with you yet. And then some of that translates over into, don’t forget Jesus said He was building His church. So can we trust Him that no matter what this looks like right now, He’s still at work. He hasn’t gone on vacation. He’s still doing what He said He would do. So don’t forget that. Keep that as a big piece of it. So those are two things that we try to really encourage pastors with.
Matt Steen: That’s great. Well, Roy, thank you so much for the time. Seriously, I’m so grateful for the work that you guys are up to. If you want to learn more about what Roy and PIR are up to, you can go to pirministries.org. Well worth the time to check-in. If you’re a church that really wants to come alongside pastors in transition and really shepherd them in a tough season, they partner with churches in incredible ways. It’s definitely worth checking out. Or if you’re a pastor that’d kind of struggling through this transition process or even looking for somebody that gets what you’re living through right now, great group of guys to walk alongside you in this season. It’s pirministries.org. Roy, thank you. Thank you, again.
Roy Yanke: Oh, thanks Matt. This is great. Appreciate it.