Depending of what source of statistics are used (and I only have stats for the U.S.), it is estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 ministers leave serving their role in ministry, every year. This does not take into consideration the countless more that would leave the ministry, if they thought they could financially make a sufficient living in any other way. In addition, it does not include those who have allowed other areas of their soul to become infected which has led to failure – moral, financial, or otherwise, and in that, have ended up being released or suspended from serving in their ministry role.
When surveyed on the issues that moves a minister to quit or wanting to, there are some common threads:
- The reality of demands and expectations of ministry today compared to what one had thought or had been taught it would be, is often close to the top of the list.
- Then there is that weariness and stress of being in ministry that only seems to increase. The weariness of dealing with people’s problems and dealing with problem people; the weariness of one’s authority being challenged and having decisions and motives being questioned; the weariness of so many wanting a piece of you, your time and energy. As that tiredness increases, the level of frustration and the inability to cope are magnified.
- Finally, there is a lack of boundaries established in one’s personal life to ensure a minister is adequately being renewed and refreshed. This not only includes one’s own emotional and physical being healthy but also the relationships of spouse and children.
Over time, these frustrations take their toll on the minister, and the stress of even normal life, begins to wear the leader down. It begins to seem like everyone wants you and you feel like you have nothing to give. Your emotions are like the proverbial elastic band that is stretched beyond limit, and your responses (even if only in your mind) become less and less like what Jesus would do or think and with that there is guilt that we could think those thoughts and then the questions compound of whether we are really doing what we once thought we’d been called into.
In an article written in 2011 for the USA Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal, Dr. Richard Dobbins of EMERGE Ministries says this –
Dealing proactively with the stress of ministry requires less effort and heartache than dealing with it reactively. And it also spares ministers the agonizing consequences of allowing stress to drive them from ministry.
Effective pastors need to be whole persons who deliberately balancing more than just what they are doing but also who they are, inside. There must be a consistent balancing of the person and the profession, our worship and our work, and then equally important, balancing marriage and family and church life. Wounded healers must allow themselves to be healed through the same Gospel they use to bring recovery and wellness to others.
In Matthew 11, Jesus says – “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” While this is for every follower of Christ, it is for Pastors also. As ministers and leaders in His Body, Jesus intended for the overseer and bishops to know His rest in their soul.
During a season of extended sabbatical, the Lord brought a comment by Pastor Andy Stanley to my attention a few times from different sources. The first time I read it, I thought “That’s a good statement.” But by the second and third time, I knew God was speaking it for me, personally. Let me speak it to you… The practice down the hall, trumps the mission on the wall.
This needs to be key advice for every pastor and minister to take hold of. We must put into practice the same gospel and messages that we preach to those we lead and serve. In a common phrase that many have heard over the years, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So before you arrive at a place of no return on the road of quitting the ministry, let me encourage you to put into practice some practices of prevention through caring for your self.
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