In today’s podcast I talk “tongue in cheek” about feeling the itch to move to a different church. I share how for the first time in nine years I had someone else preach for me, even though I had nothing else going on. Again, tongue in cheek, because I was slammed that week and needed to cry “uncle” to one of my elders, who graciously preached for me that Sunday. While we use a fair amount of humor in this podcast, our topic is a serious one – What makes a Pastor want to leave?
There are seven things we identify that cause pastors to feel like hanging it up and moving to another church:
Discouragement – How easy it is for pastors to get discouraged! It is said that it takes fifteen compliments to make up for one criticism; and, on average, it takes only seven negative people to drive a pastor out of a ministry. If these numbers are off at all, they are not off by much. Because we have such a passion to help and encourage people, when someone shares how we have failed them or the church, it cuts deeply. Discouragement is an all too common reality for pastors of local churches.
Failure – When we attempt a ministry initiative and it fails, especially if we fail repeatedly, we want to hit the road. Because we are working with people and not products, we take failure seriously, as well we should. But we should also understand that while Babe Ruth held some home run records, he also held some strikeout records. If you’re going to step up to the plate and hit home runs, you have to be ready to also strike out fairly often. Do what John Maxwell recommends and Fail Forward!
Loneliness – For a pastor, there is often no one to confide in. At least that is our perspective. We don’t want to share our inner struggles with our church family, but we do need to share them with someone. No one really does understand what it means to be responsible for a church family, except other pastors who are responsible for church families. It can be very lonely for a pastor, if he or she doesn’t make sure to connect with others who can encourage them and help them along the way. If you literally have no one to talk with, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and let us help! We will even give you our cell phone numbers!
Restlessness – Even though things may be going well, restlessness can set in, and we feel like we need another adventure or challenge. In fact, especially when things are going well, you’ve arrived at a good place in your ministry, and you begin to feel comfortable, that’s when restlessness can creep in. Recently someone asked me if I thought I had another church in me. I replied “I sure do, and I hope it’s right here!” When you get restless, set some goals and get some vision for the ministry you’re now in. Take on a new challenge and look for the next mountain – it might be right in your backyard!
Increasing anger – I say increasing anger because anger left unchecked only increases. Eventually we want to leave the church because our anger distances and alienates us from our people and our calling. Anger means we have lost perspective on who God is, who we are, and who our people are. Increasing anger also signals a lack of communication with others and unforgiveness in our hearts. Untreated and increasing anger eventually causes frustration and hopelessness. At that point, your only recourse is, “it’s time to go!”
Burnout – When your emotions and relational savvy are both fried, you will experience an absence of passion, optimism and energy. When these vital leadership ingredients are missing, it’s hard for you to see a future for yourself in your current ministry. When you can no longer operate at a level acceptable for you, you may be burned out. When you are bored, having trouble sleeping, feeling frustrated and depressed, are emotionally exhausted, have headaches, experience decreased self-esteem, want to withdraw, and have trouble making decisions – you just might be burned out! This definitely makes you want to split the scene!
Lack of change in your ministry – If everything and everyone in your church resists change, you might just need to take your board or leadership team and “set ‘em down”. You need to have a talk. Perhaps it’s because you are not sharing your vision for the church well enough, and it’s really on you. Or maybe you are just in a church that refuses to change, reach out, and/or innovate. Either way, if a church or any organization resists change, it’s just a matter of time before everything unravels.
These are some things that make a pastor want to leave a church, and they’re not pretty. In Part 2 of Prone To Wander – we talk about staying put and the benefits of a long term ministry. That topic will surface very soon in the coming weeks.
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