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Why Are So Many Pastors Dropping Out?

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The statistics are alarming. Pastors are dropping out or being forced out of ministry at such a high rate there is a looming shortage of clergy to fill existing positions.

Studies show that of seminary graduates who enter ministry as a profession, 85% quit within the first five years, leaving us with a disconcerting void of young church leaders.

All total, 90% of clergy bail out or are terminated from their job before reaching retirement years.

I have personally lived this…twice!

The first time occurred 22 years into fulltime pastoral ministry. I took a 20-month break and called it a self-funded sabbatical. The second was at year 32 and lasted over 5 years.

Burnout was a catalyst in both resignations. I had lost my way and was in despair that things could ever get better.

I figured I would rather have people ask me why I was leaving ministry than when.

Why is this happening?

A variety of reasons are consistently cited for this dropout trend:
• health problems related to poor self-care
• feeling disconnected from healthy relationships
• difficulty in managing conflict
• low pay
• lack of proper training
• and, mean sheep.

I propose that there is another factor that deserves more attention – exhaustion from having to maintain worn-out and broken church organizational functions.

This can consume so much time and energy there is little left for ministry that is effective and fulfilling.

You are not finished yet

I pray for the pastors who have recently given up or right now are thinking about doing so. You have reached a point of desperation. Your hopes and dreams for making a difference in the lives of people have crashed.

You feel your efforts are a waste of time. There is no fulfillment in what you are doing.

Your days and decisions are driven by the expectations of others who seem more concerned that you perpetuate the outdated machinery than actually impact lives for Christ.

For you, the transformation of your community or even a few individuals seems too lofty a goal to entertain. Your vision is dead.

My prayer is that you would realize that your despair is a healthy sign of dissatisfaction with something God is eager to change. Your realization that something is fundamentally wrong is a tiny green sprout that promises new life is possible.

I have a dream

I dream of leading an online community that provides encouragement and tools for church leaders who need help with the organizational side of church. We can all give something and we can all receive something. Friend, please don’t quit. You are needed!

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