The Hartford Institute for Religion Research discovered that two out of three pastors named last year as the most difficult year of their ministry career. So, it is not surprising that Lifeway Research discovered that 38% of all pastors and half of pastors under forty considered quitting full-time ministry in 2021. Let’s just say it…it has been a tough ministry season.
I get it. A half dozen years into ministry (and those were easier times) I considered packing up my study and moving on. Three decades later I am glad I stuck it out. Admittedly, pastoral leadership has had multiple challenges but it has also been a deeply beautiful, wonderfully rich and an abundantly meaningful life. Let me suggest some things to remember if you feel like calling it a day.
Remember How God Got You Here
It’s important to retrace your call into ministry and call to this present location. Recount the stories of when God was undeniably present urging you into a deeper life in him and into service to his people and world. Remember, you are not here by accident but by calling.
Remember That You Should Never Quit On Monday
After a particularly challenging Sunday my dad (also a pastor) said to me, “Never quit on Monday.” Quitting is for sober minded reflection not knee-jerk reaction. These are unusually times demanding patient endurance. Remember, by God’s grace, things will get better.
Remember To Nurture Joy
In the midst of an Old Testament revival, Nehemiah said to God’s weeping people, “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10). Pastors who survive nurture joy. They build snowmen with their kids, attend great concerts, celebrate a day on the slopes, and catch coffee with friends.
Remember To Stay Connected With The Holy Spirit
Jesus said he would send his Spirit as a Comforter (John 14:26). The Spirit’s sustaining power cannot be over- stated. Find a quiet place to listen for the Spirit’s still small voice. Find Spirit sensitive friends who can share a word of wisdom, knowledge and encouragement.
Remember The Importance Of What You Do
Some people will spend their lives building widgets. Pastors spend their lives ushering in God’s Kingdom of Shalom, helping shape the lives of Jesus followers, being Jesus’ presence among the hurting and proclaiming the good news, Jesus saves. Simply put, pastoral work is a privilege.
Remember The Urge To Quit May Be A Stirring Towards Better Things
Sometimes the urge to quit is not about quitting but about the Holy Spirit nudging us towards better things. Sometimes the Spirit creates disquiet so we begin looking for God’s fresh work in a rapidly changing world and ask, “Could I/we join Him in a new and important work?”
Remember Your Value Is Not About What You Do But Who You Are
Whether you stay or quit, you are equally loved and valued by God. Through Jesus, you are a son/daughter of the Great King. You cannot be more valuable than that. If the investment in ministry is seasonal, so be it. You can change your occupation without losing your vocation.