Today I resigned from my church…
To be clear, no I did not resign from the church that I lead. But these are words that I hear weekly. More pastors are walking away than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Just this past week I saw someone say they personally knew 28 pastors that have resigned from their church and walked away from ministry.
Why? – That is a big question with many different answers.
First, I want to be clear the world needs the church more than it ever has. Most churches are running 50% (many less than that) of the attendance it was pre-COVID.
So a church running 100 is now running 50.
A church of 500 is now running 250.
And so on…
7 “Whys” as I see it and what you can do to help.
1. Pastors are tired…
Pretty much every single person I know is tired. The past 14 months have been exhausting for so many different reasons. Pastor’s are not exempt.
A recent study said that pastors are working 10 more hours a week now than they were before COVID. I know during the early stages of COVID I was working 80 hours a week. Many things led to this…Churches were “closed” (which really meant that all the volunteers that serve so faithfully at church were at home). And a very small group of people pulled off livestream or pre-recorded services each week while trying to stay in touch and minister to everyone in the church as best as they knew how.
No, it was not healthy. I remember reaching a point of total exhaustion.
My body told me I had to slow down. Thankfully, I listened. But let me let you in on a little secret. I am still tired.
Just about every job has changed and most are a lot more stressful than ever before.
Let me ask you…
Teachers, has this year been more stressful?
Nurses, has this year been more stressful?
Those in customer service, has this year been more stressful?
Should I go on?
A resounding YES for every one of those. Your pastor is not exempt as well.
2. Pastor’s can’t do anything right…
Ok, this is not true and we all know it. However, it is easy to feel this way and here are some of the reasons why.
- We should meet. We shouldn’t meet.
- We should require masks. We shouldn’t require masks.
- The live stream isn’t any good. If it doesn’t sound better than that we should quit. Thank you so much, the live stream has made such a difference in my life.
- We need more protocols. We need less protocols.
- Why is attendance so low? I am thankful so many have come back.
Just to name a few.
One friend of mine recently said it this way…Our church shut down in-person worship at the beginning of the pandemic, which prompted people to leave. More left when the church reopened and required masks. No matter what he did, someone was angry. “It was sort of relentless,” he said. He recently stepped down as pastor from his church. “My wife and I just found ourselves in a place of exhaustion,” he said.
Right or wrong this is running through your pastors head. So when a Sunday rolls around and someone says, “Can we meet sometime this week?” Here is what your pastor hears…What did I do wrong this time?, or What am I going to get chewed out for this time? You may or may not intend to do what he is thinking but it is running through his mind.
What can you do? First, be an encouragement. Remind him the ways your life has been changed. Or simply go out to eat and just have a good normal conversation.
3. Church attendance makes them feel like a failure.
Pastor’s want their church to grow more than anyone. Or at least the ones that I know. Not so that they can have the largest church in town. Not so they can brag about their growth. But because they see the harvest.
They know the harvest is plentiful and they feel the burden to reach their communities in ways they can never put into words.
So when the church attendance drops by 50% in a year, they are reminded of that each Sunday.
4. They don’t know what else to do…they want the church to grow so bad they are willing to get out of the way.
Pastors felt a sense of isolation, cut off from contact with their congregations and unable to do the kind of in-person ministry that drew them to the pastorate in the first place. Instead of preaching and visiting the sick, they had to become video producers and online content creators.
This past year, and in reality, their entire ministry has looked different.
They have tried what the “experts” say.
- They have paid for coaches/consulting out of their own pocket.
- They spend hours and days executing well thought out plans only to see them go up in smoke.
In a world that we are not sure if we should shake someone’s hand or not when they walk in the door, how is he expected to know how to reach people in a time that none of us have ever experienced?
So, many pastors are resigning because they don’t know what else to do.
5. They blame themselves for the drop in attendance.
I didn’t make the right decision… I was too cautious. I didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t communicate like I should. I should have checked on people better. These are just a few thoughts going through pastors’ minds that I talk to.
Ultimately, they are blaming themselves for the drop in attendance.
6. The stress that is put on their family.
I have experienced this from both sides. See, my dad is a pastor and has been all of my life. I grew up in what I have heard referred to as a “fish bowl.” First, let me be clear: I am very very thankful for the churches my dad served while growing up. They were nothing but wonderful to me. That is not always the case as I hear from other pastors and other pastor’s kids.
There is a lot of stress that can happen to a pastor’s family. They see the good and the bad on a regular basis. And because of this, pastors find themselves asking, “is this going to cause my kids to abandon the church. Is this in the best interest of my kids faith?”
Because a pastor’s kids faith is more important than the church to them; as it should be. The weight can be heavy and COVID added to this for some reasons mentioned above.
7. They need to make a living.
This is the one that no one wants to talk about.
I will never forget when I was a youth pastor being told, “my son needs this new job because he does not make enough.” He had just graduated from high school and he was already making more than me and I have a family.
Covid has made this even a bigger deal. I remember being on a call in the first week that Covid hit and someone saying you need to start preparing to operate on half your budget because that is where we are going. I remember thinking there is no way. Now there are plenty of studies out there saying that this is the case in a lot of churches.
This is not an exhaustive list but my prayer is that it gives us a glimpse into the problem. EVERYONE is struggling. I have a feeling if you are reading this life over the last 14 months has been more stressful than you care to admit. Let’s join together and pray for each other!
I was in a conversation with someone this week and they stated “I have not abandoned my faith, I am just not going to church anymore.” So many thoughts ran through my mind. Can I be honest for a moment…If you have been out of church for more than a year you are considered unchurched. You may not have walked away from your faith but you have walked away from your mission that God has called you to, and my fear is that your kids will pay the consequences and have no faith.
How do I know many of these ‘Whys?’ Because I have struggled with some of these and have talked with many pastors over the past year. All of these are recurring statements that have risen to the top.
What can you do?
First pray for your pastor! In these challenging times he needs it.
Second, encourage your pastor. He desperately wants to reach the harvest.
Third, let’s all get on mission together. The world needs us as much as ever!
Whether you are a pastor or a church member, hang in there! Let’s fight the good fight together. It is worth it, there are people that need to hear the gospel!
PASTOR THE CHURCH NEEDS YOU! THE WORLD NEEDS YOU! HANG IN THERE!