My heart breaks when I hear that someone is leaving vocational ministry.
Most of the time.
There are good (and bad) reasons for leaving the ministry. I have moved from full-time church staff member in my career (from working on a church staff to para-church to Kingdom entrepreneur over the course of my career.)
In his piece at Biblical Leadership, Matthew Fretwell gives his top five reasons he sees pastors leave the ministry permanently:
- Financial Reasons
Many churches, particularly small churches don’t pay competitively. We get approached by churches quite often that want to, for example, hire a full-time youth pastor in Southern California for $40k a year. (And we work with a good amount of candidates in those positions that are barely making ends meet). This kind of stress, over the long-haul, causes people to bail… to find something different.
Many pastors feel lonely and isolated. They simply don’t have any kind of support structure inside the church that allow them to feel satisfied and to lead with confidence. And many times, the lack of good leadership can turn toxic. Without a team, a leader dries up. They’ll look for other options.
The church can be one of the best places in the world to work. It can also be one of the worst. When conflict, agendas, personalities, and politics prevail in church culture, church leaders react. Long-term toxicity causes a fight or flight mentality. I’ve seen many a good church leader fight for a season, see that they won’t win the fight, and run from Dodge. According to the length of the fight or how many wounds are inflicted, some are, unfortunately, done fighting forever.
80% of pastors feel that church life has had a negative affect on their family. To be honest, I don’t see a lot of people leaving the pastorate or ministry life because of family, but I do see the long-term effects of it on children and marriages. Proper care and protection of our families is something we have to fight for everyday.
As I mentioned before, many leaders just feel lonely. Leadership can seem lonely at times. The church is a rare bird in that you have to sometimes make your own community. You don’t often times have a dozen people in the office working alongside you everyday. You have to work to develop relationships. You have to build into others. You have to have people you can bounce ideas off of. This is tough. As pastors, we often build walls rather than tear them down. The result is loneliness… feeling like we’re in this thing all alone.
Have you ever thought about leaving the ministry for good?
Was it for one of these reasons?
Are you glad you didn’t?
(Or maybe you’ve left full-time ministry. I’d love to hear your reasons and what (you feel) life is like on the other side. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.