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Staff Search

The Great Resignation - The Diminishing Church Staff Workforce

COVID really has upended every aspect of our daily lives in ways that we have not seen in decades. Here are some common reasons that people are leaving now...

Workforce resignation

The last two weeks, we’ve been looking at “The Great Resignation” and how it is affecting churches across America.  You can find our definition of the problem here and the current employee climate here.


In our own research, over a third of churches are telling us that they are already seeing signs of increased resignations and departures at their local church. And just under a third of church staff report to us that they have ‘seriously considered’ leaving the ministry post-COVID (with over half of church staff saying that they are considering some type of job transition over the next 12 months.)


There are many reasons that we see this unprecedented workplace transition.


According to Kevin Harrington, the CEO of Joblist: "The pandemic created a sudden, wide-scale opportunity for workers in all industries to take a step back from their daily work, reevaluate their employment situation, and consider other career options moving forward… a significant percentage are taking advantage. Although the pandemic initiated this reckoning, the Great Resignation appears to be a trend that is here to stay."


People tend to quit their jobs after experiencing some kind of ‘turnover shock’.


TURNOVER SHOCK: a life event that precipitates self-reflection about one’s job satisfaction. Shocks can be positive, like grad school acceptance or a new baby, or negative, like a divorce or sick relative. Or they can be global catastrophes like COVID-19 that upend every aspect of daily life.


COVID really has upended every aspect of our daily lives in ways that we have not seen in decades. This ‘turnover shock’ has played out differently for each of us but has been the catalyst for much of the career transition we are starting to experience inside and outside of the church. Here are some common reasons that people are leaving now:


  • Pent-Up Demand. Many people that would have naturally transitioned during the pandemic (2020 and early 2021) simply didn’t because of COVID.  That, in and of itself, was one of the main predictors to this year’s increased resignations and career transitions. Essentially, people that would have left last year are just now feeling comfortable enough to make the move.


  • Burnout. Some have experienced burnout over the past months of the pandemic. Increased stress, additional responsibilities, and changing protocols have made many employees enjoy their jobs less. Many are emotionally exhausted, and many see their job as a major factor resulting in their current diminished state of happiness and well-being.


  • Shifting Identities. For some, the pandemic has caused them to re-evaluate their work/life balance.  The pandemic caused many workers to re-prioritize what is most important to them. Workers realized that they are much more than their jobs or careers. Having more time for family or personal interests helped many to decide to find a way to pay the bills that is much more flexible in allowing them to do the things that they found during the pandemic to be the most important to them.


  • Increased Freedom and Flexibility. As we just mentioned, many people discovered that working from home or remotely for a season brought them increased productivity, freedom, and flexibility. Family time in many cases increased, as well as the ability to complete their work on their own time schedule.  For some, working on-site and seeing their co-workers face-to-face was something that was really missed.  For others, the added flexibility, less commute time, and the ability to connect via technology created new freedom that they are finding difficult to give up.


  • Less Stress.  Many workers found that not having to ‘go’ to work every day made their days less stressful and easier to navigate.  Some did not miss the office politics or that one person that made everything miserable.  If their supervisor was a pain in the neck, the added distance proved to take their stress level down a few notches. Heading back to ‘normal’ meant adding back in some of the stress and frustration they had grown NOT to miss.


  • Better Pay. Many workers now are finding that the job market is competitive for talent and their skills and abilities may bring a higher salary somewhere else. This could be a new job in their current career track; or it may be in a totally different field.  Higher salaries are definitely causing workers to take a fresh look at their career options.


  • Benefits. Some are also leaving their current jobs to find better benefits.  Better healthcare (especially while coming out of a pandemic) is an important consideration for workers.  With the tighter labor market, many businesses and companies have gotten quite competitive when it comes to benefits like healthcare, vision, dental, HSA contributions; and even educational reimbursements, moving costs, and signing bonuses.


  • The Re-Prioritization of the Extended Family. For many people, being away from their extended family was something that they had grown used to and accepted.  But when the pandemic hit and travel became restricted, many found they felt isolated and far removed from those they loved.  Not having an option to spend the holidays together in 2020 has caused a desire in many to move back closer to home the next time they make a career move.


  • Finding A Place Where I’m Valued. Employees that do not feel valued coming out of the pandemic are looking for other opportunities to join a team that values their contribution.  For some (younger generations in particular), finding a place that values them and the contribution they are able to make to the organization is even more important than the salary and benefits provided.


  • Flexible Hours and No Weekends. Studies show that employees are now looking for a much more flexible workweek.  The pandemic for many gave great freedom on when and where they could work (as long as the work got done).  Employers that offer at least some additional flexibility moving forward are poised to have happier employees that stay longer and have a great chance of adding additional employees that are looking for greater freedom and flexibility in their work schedules.


  • Career Self-Reflection. Is this really what I want to do with my life?  Am I happy?  Is this healthy for my family?  Am I financially stable?  All of these are questions that people have been asking at a much higher rate than usual.  COVID has caused everyone to reconsider their life goals, their hopes, and their dreams. It has caused many to ask questions like 
    • Is there a better job out there for me?
    • Is what I do fulfilling and rewarding?
    • Can I find something that allows me to spend more time with my family?
    • Do I want to continue on my current career path?


The bottom line:  After reflecting, prioritizing, and weighing their options, many employees have concluded that better alternatives exist out there, and this is an excellent time to at least consider a career move.


All of the above factors come into play for members of a church staff. In fact, as we’ll see next week, many of the reasons people are leaving their jobs, in general, are some of many church’s greatest areas of vulnerability when it comes to keeping a great paid staff team.


So what should we as church leaders do?  How do we provide an atmosphere where our staff team feels loved, appreciated, and wants to stay?  And how, as individual staff members, do we decipher what this means for our careers and families?


Next week, we’ll look at what to be considering if you’re a staff member… then we’ll finish out our series with ideas on how churches can build and strengthen their staff teams during this time of great reflection and transition.


While this may seem like yet another problem or potential crisis for the church, She will emerge, I believe, stronger than ever with a renewed vision and purpose. While these changes will cause some momentary pain and stress, the end result will be a strong big “C” church that will meet these (and other challenges) to continue to fulfill the great commission.


Until next week,



PS - We’d love to share with your church a little of what we’re seeing BEFORE you start to hire your next staff person. Find a time to talk. 


2 https://chemistry.fyi/fortune 

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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