We have all heard, and perhaps shared, the scary stats about pastors who leave the ministry every month. Truth is sometimes worse than myth, but fortunately not in this case.
- The prevailing myth = 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month
- The promising truth = 250 pastors leave the ministry every month
The new groundbreaking Lifeway Research survey of 1500 pastors found that only one percent abandon the pulpit each year. I can think of at least three implications from this groundbreaking research.
1. Pastors are Not Quitters
I was sixteen years old when I surrendered to the ministry. Soon after I shared that call with my church, a prominent pastor told me that only about 1:10 who start in the ministry will finish in the ministry. I have heard that several times since then. If that is true, how does it sync with this new study?
First of all, many who say “yes” to the ministry never actually started in the first place. As I look back to those I’ve known who publically shared their call to the ministry, many of them changed their mind along the way in high school, college, or seminary. Career confusion is normal for students, as well as adults.
Current pastors say a change in calling is the top reason their predecessors left the pastorate, accounting for 37 percent of departures. We all know people in the ministry who probably never belonged there in the first place. For those who do eventually step onto the front lines of ministry, apparently most don’t quit…which is awesome.
“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it” (2 Corinthians 8:11).
2. Ministry is Tough, but So Are Ministers
I talk to pastors every day and can attest to the fact that they have one of the hardest jobs on the planet. What this survey says to me is that pastors are not quitters or wimps.
- 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day
- 80 percent expect conflict in their church
- 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming
Dr. Rainer loves pastors, and it is a great privilege for me to serve this tough tribe on behalf of him and Lifeway. Our desire is to encourage and equip these brave servants of the church.
“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
3. Ministers Need Encouragement
The results of this survey remind us that those who are still serving on the front lines of ministry need encouragers to root them on. Their race is not over yet.
- 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security
- 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle
- 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them
If you are a pastor, encourage your comrades “in season and out of season.” Every pastor needs a pastor in their life and ministry. Who can you be a Barnabas to?
If you are a lay-leader in your church, treat your pastor(s) like a friend or family member, because he is both. Provide a listening ear and safe place for your pastor to share his dreams, as well as his nightmares.
This month is Pastor/Clergy Appreciation Month which is a great opportunity for churches to say “thank you.” Honestly, most churches won’t participate because either they don’t know about it or know how to implement it. Since it is awkward for pastors to initiate honor, let Lifeway help by simply forwarding 3 Ways to Honor Your Pastor to the key pastor advocate in your church. Free Pastor Appreciation Month resources are also available at LifewayPastors.com.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
At the end of the day, most ministers consider it a great privilege to serve the Lord and His beautiful Bride. We understand the price of pastoring and are more than willing to pay it.
“I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).
Mark Dance is associate VP at Lifeway, overseeing Lifeway Pastors. You can receive his regular encouragement in pastoral health at MarkDance.net