7 Reasons Pastors QUIT

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Discover and overcome these challenges pastors face in ministry life.

Statistics regarding pastors are not encouraging.

The Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development reports that 35-40 percent of ministers last less than five years in the ministry. Many statistics show that 60-80 percent of those who enter the ministry will no longer be laboring in the ministry 10 years later.

Whether these statistics are right or not, it is clear that there are struggles with persevering in the ministry. I would suggest that the reasons below are the greatest struggles to perseverance in the ministry (though you are welcome to add others in the comments).

As we consider each, I want to offer a little encouragement to young pastors and aspiring seminarians:

1. Conflict. 

This is arguably one of the biggest surprises to young pastors. Conflict happens in the church; and it happens all the time.

Those in ministry will often be called upon to mediate conflict, navigate the waters of a conflict, and are regularly the target of much conflict. Pastors will find that there are hateful, petty, arrogant, rude, brooding and discontent people in their congregations.

Unfortunately, and coming as a surprise to many pastors, the fact is that the unconverted don’t tend to cause the majority of conflict; it is the converted who often launch the hardest persecutions. As William Still once said, “They want their part of the Gospel or their emphasis, usually that which they wrongly think does not touch them, call upon them or challenge them.”

It is also true that pastors are often the source of conflict themselves. Sin, errors in judgment and mistakes in leadership can cause firestorms.

Encouargement: When pastors are engaged in conflict, they must search their own hearts to see if their passions are out of control (James 4:1-2).

Has sin had a way with them? This must be their first and foremost concern.

However, most pastors will find that a great deal of conflict in the church will not be a result of their own personal sin. To survive, a pastor must not carry every burden and conflict. There are times to “let go” and move on.

Thick skin and a tender heart are good traits for a pastor. You must teach without fear the whole counsel of God, stand by your convictions and be winsome; but let the chips fall no matter who may be offended.

Jason Helopoulos Jason Helopoulos is the Assistant Pastor at URC. He was born in the “Land of Lincoln,” central Illinois. He graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1999. Jason then attended Dallas Theological Seminary and completed a Masters of Theology degree (ThM) with a concentration in Historical Theology and Christian Education in 2003.

More from Jason Helopoulos or visit Jason at http://www.universityreformedchurch.org

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  • Ryan

    You forgot a very important reason that pastor’s quit – church politics. Whether the church board forces the senior pastor out or the senior pastor forces a staff pastor out through intimidation or false accusations or even simply telling them thier time is up. It boils down to church politics and anyone who ignores that very powerful reason needs to wake up. Church politics can destroy a pastors desire to want to continue in church ministry, as well as the effectiveness of the church’s ministry to the community.

    On a personal note, I now attend a church who, along with my family, has four other former staff pastors from different churches who were forced out of ministry due to church politics. I can personally think of a few of my friends elsewhere who are no longer in ministry for the same reason. It seems to be the elephant in the room that no one talks about. Whether it is power hungry, paranoid senior pastors, who think that no one can challenge them, or church boards who are more concerned about numbers and money than ministry, or a list of other reasons, church leaders need to come to grips with the fact that this is a very real reason that pastors leave the ministry.

    Unlike the other 7 reasons listed in this article, church politics cannot be overcome by one person. Moral failure, loneliness, and the others are personal reasons pastor quit and can be dealt with and overcome personally. Church politics cannot be handled the same way. Most times the politics game comes through years of unhealthy church habits that are accepted as the norm and overlooked. Unless a pastor sees the problem before he or she starts at a church, it can be overlooked until you get too deep to realize it. Many churches have built in checks and balances to avoid problems like this (pastor, deacons, church members, elders, staff, etc) but when one or more of these balances is skewed or is under the control of one or more of the others it becomes a major problem that only gets worse if not corrected as time goes on.

    Why do I say all this? Because after being forced out after 17 years of ministry as a staff pastor, I have found that my ministry is more effective than ever before. Jesus said it is not the well who need a physician but the sick. An unbalanced ministry life has now been replaced by a more balanced personal life that I can teach my children about ministry, servant leadership, and being a Christ-follower in the world. I guess I’ve just come to realize the purpose of the Church in the New Testament is about supporting and encouraging fellow believers, teaching what is right, correcting what is wrong, and going into all the world and preaching the Gospel. I’m still in full-time ministry, just a different type. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    • peter

      Well said Ryan… ‘church politics’ is a reality and a big reality that most who use and abuse it only find out how damaging it is when they are on the other end of the politics. My father who is now retired, was a pastor who I was told (years later) had been seen as the best potential candidate to take up the presidency of our regional mission when the position would be localised. you guessed it… he never became because of church politics. He is a humble man and held in high regard by the community, and membership however because of politics he was never given credit by insiders where credit was due. It is sad, but as you stated.. leaders try to ignore this ‘elephant’ the sad thing is church members see it and also leave the church.
      Today, I am a new volunteer pastor in a newly formed church.. and this elephant’s head has appeared again. I am on the verge of moving out and doing just as you have done. I have been asked by other Christian groups to conduct youth training, community bible based events for teens and youth.. this i believe is my true calling.
      You sit with senior pastors and administrators and pick out very obviously, those with a heart for ministry and those with elephant ears, and noses. Sadly the later lot have the greatest influence as far as decision making goes and therefore decide the fate of the good hearted, servant hearted pastor.. they have no choice but to leave. You have raised a very important reason why pastors quit.. the others like you said can be worked on by the individual.. but this one sadly requires others and most often does greated damage to the church, because it becomes a matter of suvival for leaders and not a matter of ministry and service.

      • Patrice

        As a pastor that is just starting out, but has been in church ministry for years; and have seen many churches on “How Not to Run a Church;” church politics will kill a pastor’s spirit faster and deeper than all seven of the others because it involves so many people in the church and many sins are committed during this processes. @peter, I too had a father who left his position in the church because of church politics. It has taken him 30 years to pick up his Bible again renew his faith in God.

    • Ryan

      You could write an article on this very point.

  • patsi

    here’s a new reason…..to many pastors who are not called to pastor. Teachers,evangelists,preachers kids who learned from parents only…. may be close in calling,but a pastor has to be called,encouraged,kept,& most importantly, the Agape Love of God that a all pators must have to be the shepherd of God’s people. It’s not always the people . Abide in your calling,be content in what He calls you to do,& He supplies all that you need. all people have to grow in our lord & even mature Christians have faults. Including pastors. Suffering is our greates builder of who we are.All of us.