Eight Negative Reasons Pastors Leave a Church, by Thom Rainer


Eight Negative Reasons Pastors Leave a Church

Thom Rainer

The major­i­ty of pas­tors move from one church to anoth­er as a sense of call. In some denom­i­na­tion­al bod­ies, pas­tors are appoint­ed to move from church to church. Those depar­tures are nor­ma­tive and, for the most part, healthy.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly there are unhealthy rea­sons that cause a pas­tor to leave a church. The sad real­i­ty is that most of these rea­sons are pre­ventable. In most cases some­thing could be done to stop these pre­sum­ably pre­ma­ture depar­tures. I have taken the lib­er­ty to name the top eight neg­a­tive rea­sons pas­tors leave a church. The research is more anec­do­tal, but the fre­quen­cy with which I hear and deal with these issues makes me con­fi­dent that this list­ing is most­ly accu­rate. The rea­sons are obvi­ous­ly not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive.

Dis­cour­age­ment and frus­tra­tion over crit­ics in the church. Over thir­ty times this year pas­tors have con­tact­ed me to let me know they resigned from their church due to weari­ness over crit­ics.

Dis­cour­age­ment and frus­tra­tion over the direc­tion of the church. Most pas­tors come to a church with an eager vision and great hope. Many pas­tors leave a church when it becomes obvi­ous to them that the hope will not be real­

Moral fail­ure. The two most com­mon moral fail­ures are sex­u­al and finan­cial. In either case safe­guards were typ­i­cal­ly not in place.

Burnout. The flex­i­bil­i­ty of a pas­tor’s job can lead to one of two extremes: poor work ethic or worka­holism. The lat­ter inevitably leads to burnout.

Forced ter­mi­na­tion other than moral fail­ure. Just last night I heard about a pas­tor who was fired because the church mem­bers deter­mined they need­ed bet­ter lead­er­ship. That rea­son is one among many I hear more and more often.

Finan­cial strug­gles. A num­ber of church­es do not take care of their pas­tors finan­cial­ly. Most are able to do so. A pas­tor who has to worry about pay­ing his bills will not be an effec­tive pas­tor.
Fam­i­ly issues. Obvi­ous­ly the fam­i­ly issues could be relat­ed to any of the rea­sons noted here. But a num­ber of pas­tors tell me they resigned sim­ply because the entire church expe­ri­ence and atmos­phere were unhealthy for their fam­i­ly.

Depar­ture of joy. Typ­i­cal­ly a pas­tor has great joy when he is called to min­istry. That joy often con­tin­ues dur­ing the time of train­ing for min­istry and entry into the first church. But a num­ber of pas­tors for var­i­ous rea­sons lose their joy in the real world of local church min­istry.
I was tempt­ed to list depres­sion as a top rea­son a pas­tor leaves a church. But the often debil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion of depres­sion is inter­twined with any of the rea­sons noted above. Indeed it could be argued that many of the rea­sons above are inter­re­lat­ed.

What can we learn from these exam­ples? First, we should pray for our pas­tors reg­u­lar­ly. Sec­ond, we should seek ways to help pre­vent the rea­sons noted above. Third, we should be a friend and encour­ager to our pas­tors. They already have plen­ty of crit­ics.

What would you add to my list?

Pas­tor to Pas­tor is the Sat­ur­day blog series at ThomRainer.com. Pas­tors and staff, if we can help in any way, con­tact Steve Drake, our direc­tor of pas­toral rela­tions, at Steve.Drake@LifeWay.com. We also wel­come con­tacts from layper­sons in church­es ask­ing ques­tions about pas­tors, church­es, or the pas­tor search process.


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