The statistics are horrifying and the stories gut wrenching. If something doesn’t change, the American church will face unprecedented challenges in the next year and many local congregations will not survive.
What’s the tragedy? The growing realization that a significant percentage of pastors are considering leaving their churches. In July, Chuck Lawless sounded a warning in his post 6 Reasons Why Some Pastors May Resign Soon After the COVID Crisis. Others picked up on this theme.
On August 31, Thom Rainer wrote: “Please hear me clearly. The vast majority of pastors with whom our team communicates are saying they are considering quitting their churches. It’s a trend I have not seen in my lifetime. Some are just weeks away from making an announcement.”
Our pastors are in the middle of a battle that most believe they cannot win. Leading a church has always been difficult, just read the New Testament. We have always known that pastors live in glass houses; every decision is under a microscope. Pastors have never believed that they could please everyone. However, things have shifted. Pastors are being criticized, vilified, and abandoned. They know every decision will offend nearly half their congregation, many leaving to attend another church. Politics and social unrest have divided congregations and social media has intensified the hostilities. Consider these statements from Lifeway Research:
- “People’s attitudes have split very much on partisan lines. Half the church is opposed to any reopening. Half the church is frustrated that we haven’t long since reopened.”
- “I am aware that people are growing weary of the entire pandemic. Some are scared to death, while others are convinced it is a hoax. Trying to minister to both ends of the spectrum is exhausting.”
- “Many of our congregants are still scared and unwilling to come out of their houses. No matter what we choose to do for safety, or choose not do, we are told by some group that it is too much/not enough.”
- “I desperately need time off, but with having to organize live-streams, worship services, and Sunday School I have no time to get away. I’m a one person staff and it’s difficult to find someone willing to fill in for me. I’ve had two days off since Christmas.”
- “Feeling disconnected from the people and their needs. Need encouragement, Aaron and Hur to hold up my hands, people to come alongside me. But I am tired of virtual everything!!! PS MAYBE I JUST NEED A HUG?!!!”
Our Pastors Need Us.
Fellow church members,
You and I need pastors. They are our shepherds, defenders, and teachers. But right now, our pastors need us! Remember, they are members of our churches too, and by all indications this part of our body is suffering. Unfortunately, this seems to be a self-inflicted wound. Paul wrote: “No one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it…” (Ephesians 5:29). I am afraid that for many of our pastors, this doesn’t seem to be true.
I know this is just a little blog post, but my appeal is that we all decide to be different. Not only can our churches not survive losing our pastors, it is our spiritual duty to do everything we can to stop this from happening. We can do better; we must do better!
We Need Our Pastors.
Please don’t quit; we need you. I have spent over three decades in Christian ministry and the last decade training those called into ministry. You have no greater cheerleader than me; I want to lean into this crisis and give a few bits of counsel. My prayer is that you receive these as words from a friend, not a critic. We need you around for a long time.
- Give yourself a break. I know we act like you are our savior, but you aren’t. Please don’t hold yourself to this standard of perfection. No one knows what to do right now. We’re all making things up.
- Take a break. I know there is too much to do. You can’t do it all but trying to check every box is killing you. For your spiritual health, for your family, and for the church, step back and breathe. We thought this was a sprint, but it’s actually a marathon.
- Find a friend. Jesus never intended for you to do this alone. If you are really alone, write to me.
- Do something else. Start a hobby, read a book, cook a steak, dig a hole and put a flower in it.
- Revisit your calling. Yes, you can do something else and make more money and have less stress. You always could. But there is a reason you choose the ministry. Let this memory re-fill your tank.