How Many Pastors Are Doing What?

I have a problem with most news sources and newsfeeds.

The news that’s unfit to digest mentally is read, received, and repeated the most!

Christian, why in the world are we so often duped into believing the worst-case scenarios?!

We lead people to believe a lot of stuff that’s just not true. Stories are misreported, details are exaggerated, and statistics are often skewed.

I’ve often heard that data doesn’t lie. And that’s true. Data doesn’t lie! But people often do.

It goes like this. Statistical research is misunderstood. The results are then skewed, and a non-factual narrative is created. People want to believe it because it’s negative. If a relatively famous person’s name or a mildly credible organization is attached to it, TA-DA! You’ve just clicked to share a myth that has the potential to become conventional thought.

Falsehoods about pastors are believed by the uninformed or those who are too lazy to discover the truth. You’ve probably heard these myths:
“Pastors only work two hours a week.”
“Preaching is easy for pastors.”
“Pastors don’t have to pay taxes.”
“My pastor doesn’t understand what life is like in the real world.”
“Small church pastors don’t have a vision for growth.”
“Most pastors never stay anywhere more than two years.”

I could literally keep going.

BUT then there’s this myth that has dug deep into my soul. For many years, it has been repeated that over 1,700 pastors are quitting the ministry every month. It tugs on the heartstrings and evokes sympathy for them. It goes on to encourage us to have compassion towards these servants of God.

Friend, if 1,700 pastors were quitting each month, the Kingdom of God would have a disaster of biblical proportions. If this were factual, I’d need to be simultaneously pastoring six different congregations.

Pastoral ministry is challenging. If you’ve never done it, you can’t imagine how stressful it can be. My personal experience and many others know this reality.

I began in ministry as a first-generation newbie! As a novice, I served two other pastors while working towards ordination. After five years, I was allowed to serve as a lead pastor. About three months in, it dawned on me. To want to do this for the rest of my life meant that I was either divinely called by God, somewhat crazy, or maybe both.

BUT every time I see this stat about these 1,700 plus pastors leaving the ministry every month, I cringe a little inside. How many pastors are doing what?! Who are these people, and where do they serve?

I know hundreds of pastors, and I’m connected to thousands more through social media. I presume that if that many were quitting every month, some of my connections would be among this exodus. Right?!

I served as a denominational executive for several years and was in the communication loop of many leadership circles. I was never able to witness these mass exits.

Truthfully, what I have seen says something different. A small church with 30-50 members usually does better at keeping its bi-vocational pastor than congregations of a few hundred with a full-time pastor. I tell you, the bi-vocational pastor often has a bulldog tenacity that’s to be admired. That pastor can generally hang on despite a chaotic church culture filled with toxic personalities if they want to.

Generally speaking, ministers of the Gospel are not quitters! Hirelings quit often, but the genuinely called men and women of God that I know are not quitters.

Here’s what I know.

Some pastors and other ministry leaders are aging out. The oldest among the Baby Boomers are rapidly retiring. Many of them are also permanently relocating to Heaven.

Yes, a fair number of pastors relocate (maybe a few hundred) to different ministry assignments every month. Some even decide to return their ministry-minded heart to secular work for a season or two. But who are we to question these transfers? These ministers are responsible to their Master. He takes excellent care of them.

Indeed, we have not done enough in encouraging younger people to prayerfully consider and prepare for the ministry. I fear we’ve exposed so many of the horrors that we’ve discouraged many away from ministry. Therefore, the ministry population from 35 – 55 years old is regularly faced with new opportunities. It also means many pastors are serving through their retirement years.

Pastors relocating or going to Heaven is not the same thing as quitting. Protestant pastors and ministry leaders are not making mass departures from the faith. Very few go apostate. Most of us are here for the long haul from here to the glories of Heaven.

Yes, we pastors, church staff, and many other ministry leaders face many challenges as we work with the brokenness of sinful humanity. But we’re still here! Our post-Christian culture has little regard for our biblical worldview. BUT, we’re not going away.

I promise you this, and it ain’t no myth. If you know a pastor, they need your prayers, encouragement, and support.

If you are a pastor, you’re not in this alone.

Get connected with other ministry leaders that can be your friends and confidants. And if you’re thinking about quitting or relocating, reach out to me. I’ll be glad to help you navigate this season prayerfully and with some balanced counsel.

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