How long has your pastor been a pastor? If it is more than 10 years, your pastor is the exception and not the rule.
The Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development reports that 35-40% of all pastors in America leave the ministry before the five-year mark and 60-80% will leave before 10 years. This means that only a small percentage will actually remain in ministry until retirement.
Doesn’t it seem strange that people who feel called by God to serve in full-time ministry are leaving at an alarming rate? Why?
What’s the Problem with Pastors?
At a national pastor’s conference in Pasadena, California in 2005 and 2006, a survey was conducted among 1,050 pastors asking them various questions about ministry. One question asked was if they had ever considered quitting ministry. 89% said they had considered quitting but didn’t have another job option. 100% of the pastors knew of a close associate who eventually did quit ministry. The 3 primary reasons given were: burnout, church conflict, and moral failure.
What can be done to help reduce these depressing statistics? Let’s explore…
Problem #1: Burnout (Hebrews 4:9-11)
It is estimated that the average pastor works 50-60 hours and takes one day off per week. These hours are fairly normal for entrepreneurs or executive level leadership in most companies, but the primary difference is that in most corporate jobs when you’re off work, you’re off work. You don’t typically have clients calling you at home, coming over to your house, or traveling with you on vacation.
In the pastorate, your “clients” are those people (i.e. friends, family, neighbors, etc.). As a result, it becomes extremely difficult to take a break because it feels unloving or selfish to avoid the people you love and care about. Therefore, it is not surprising that 71% of the pastors surveyed in Pasadena, California, said they were burned out and battled depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
Force your pastor to have scheduled and uninterrupted time off. This means that someone else answers the phone, makes the visit, or preaches the sermon. On paper, every pastor has time off but are they taking it? Is someone covering for them? Scheduled, intentional time off for your pastor will lower the burnout rate, keep them refreshed, and also be an investment into the health of your church.
Problem #2: Church Conflict (Ephesians 4:2-3)
78% of the 1,050 pastors surveyed said they had been forced to resign from a church at least once, and 63% had been fired at least twice. Another survey reveals that “every six minutes in the United States a pastor is fired.” Why? Simply stated, pastors are not living up to the expectations of those who employ them. This could be either a job performance issue or a communication issue. Either way, it is a leadership issue.
Every pastor needs clearly defined and agreed-upon job performance goals. These goals need to be reviewed on an annual basis by those who have the power to hire or fire. This is all about clarity and communication! The major deathblow to any ministry is assuming and not communicating expectations.
Problem #3: Moral Failure (1 Timothy 4:15-16)
The pastors’ conference survey also revealed that 8% of 1,050 pastors had been removed from ministry because of moral failure. Unfortunately, these stories also get high media exposure that not only causes damage to the church but also to the reputation of Jesus in our communities. The common thread we see contributing to this tragic statistic is pastoral autonomy and isolation.
Establish a leadership team (e.g. Elders) who can hold your pastor morally accountable and keep them biblically qualified for ministry (c.f. 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Satan will always try to attack those who are isolated and in a position of leadership. It becomes critical that your pastor has a safe place where they can be accountable, supported, and prayed for. If your church doesn’t have this in place, you and your pastor are at risk!
Invest in your pastor now so they will be around later!
 Richard J. Krejcir, “Statistics on Pastors, What is Going on with the Pastors in America?”
 G Lloyd Rediger, Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations Under Attack, (Louisville: John Know Press, 1997)
If you found this post helpful, consider sharing with others on the media links below.