Why do Pastors Leave Ministry?

Ministry is tough work, we know that. This week in Ministry Briefing, we share research on why pastor’s leave ministry before age 65:

In a poll by Lifeway research, former pastors were asked to list the top 5 reasons that they left the pastorate. A change in calling, conflict within their church and burnout were at the top of the list. “Almost half of those who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help” said executive director Ed Stetzer.

Source: Lifeway Research

Why does this matter for church leaders?

Here are the top five reasons pastors leave the ministry:

  • Change in Calling: 40%
  • Conflict in the Church: 35%
  • Burnout: 19%
  • Personal Finances: 12%
  • Family Issues: 12% 

I think that the most eye-opening line in the entire write up is this:

Trouble begins early, the survey indicates, with 48 percent of the former pastors saying the search team didn’t accurately describe the church before their arrival.” (Emphasis mine)

It seems to me that all five of these issues are related, and have similar root issues. We, as the church, need to be intentional about how we support our pastors… and we, as pastors, need to be intentional about ferreting out any potential issues in churches where we serve, before we accept a position.

How have YOU seen the top five play out in ministry?

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About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.