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Staff Health| Leadership| Staff Transitioning

Why Pastors Leave Church Ministry Altogether

| 2 min read

Written by Todd Rhoades
Mar 29, 2021 11:38:28 AM

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:

  1. 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.

  2. Leadership
    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.

  3. Toxicity
    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.

  4. Family
    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.

  5. Loneliness
    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?


It's been just a little over a year since COVID rocked all of our worlds.  We're seeing a DRAMATIC INCREASE in the number of people (senior pastors in particular) that are now looking to leave ministry.


Some are for a singular reason above. But most are re-evaluating their ministry career because of a combination of these five factors, all of which heightened in many ways during COVID.


We're also seeing an increasing number of church staff getting ready to jump ship for what they think will be greener pastures during 2021.  They aren't done with ministry, but they're tired... some burned out.  We're having a lot of tough conversations with candidates that are hoping a new church will be the answer to the exhaustion and exasperation they're currently experiencing after the past year in ministry.


If 2021 is a year of transition for you, prayerfully consider how healthy you are and if transitioning is a right move for you right now.  If you're struggling, talk with someone you trust to help you walk through this season.


Until you do, don't make any rash decisions.  God's calling on your life is important; and it's not something to walk away from during a season of duress. 


At Chemistry Staffing, we're on your side. Let us know how we might be able to help you walk through what can be a tremendously difficult season of ministry.




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