The Top 5 Reasons That These 734 Ex-Pastors Quit — and Why It Matters

A recent poll of more than 700 former Protestant pastors who quit their jobs before retirement age has found that the most cited reasons for their departures was a new calling, conflict in churches and burnout, yielding results that could help churches to better retain preachers.

The LifeWay Research survey, which included 734 former senior pastors who quit before age 65, focused on leaders in the following denominations: Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Southern Baptist Convention.

More specifically, when asked why they left the pastorate, 40 percent cited a change in calling, 25 percent cited conflict in a church, 19 percent said that they were burned out, 12 percent cited personal finances and 12 percent said that they experienced family issues.

LifeWay Research
LifeWay Research

Ed Stetzer, executive director of the research firm, said that these results point to ways in which churches can help retain pastors.

It’s a process that can begin when a pastor is hired, as 48 percent of ex-preachers said that the search team did not provide an accurate description of the church before they were brought on staff. So, honestly is clearly key, though there are other viable points of action.

“Almost half of those who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help,” he said. “Having clear documents, offering a sabbatical rest, and having people help with weighty counseling cases are key things experts tell us ought to be in place.”

Interestingly, though, there might also be some other tidbits of advice for seminaries and other preparatory institutions, as 48 percent of ex-senior pastors said that they were not prepared to handle the “people side of ministry,” with more than half reporting that they experienced conflict and felt personally attacked in their senior pastor roles.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

“Many seminary programs don’t even require courses on the people side,” Stetzer explained. “They’re focused on theology, biblical languages, and preaching, which are important, but almost half of the pastors felt unprepared for dealing with the people they were preparing in seminary to lead and serve.”

The survey, which was sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Richard Dockins, M.D., was conducted online from Aug. 11-Oct. 2, 2015. Read the complete results here.

(H/T: LifeWay Research)

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