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Why Pastors Think About Quitting

I heard at a conference recently that two out of three pastors are thinking about quitting. While many statistics often feel made up, I can say that as a pastor, this stat rings true.

Pastors know this.

Many people in their churches do not.

There are a few reasons why pastors think about quitting:

1. Ministry is hard work. Every job is hard. Whether you are a pastor or an electrician or an engineer or a barista. Life and work are hard. Ministry is no different. You can’t be naive about this. Too many pastors have rose colored glasses about putting out a church sign and just expecting people to show up and the people who show up will be bought in, not messy and without difficulty. Yet, the leader and the people who walk through the door are sinners.

2. They aren’t sleeping or eating well. There is a direct connection between how eat, how you sleep and the level of energy you have. Handling your energy is a stewardship issue. Leaders have a lot of meetings over meals, drink a lot of coffee or energy drinks. They stay up too late watching TV, surfing social media, instead of sleeping, taking a sabbath or doing something that is recharging and refreshing.

3. They don’t have an outlet. Whenever I find myself getting tired, it is often because I am not taking my retreat day, hanging out with friends or doing things that are fun. Leaders and pastors are notorious for being bad friends, not having hobbies and doing things that are fun. You will start to think about quitting, not being thankful, begrudgingly going to meetings or counseling people. Get outside, take a break, slow down.

4. Misplaced idols. If pastors are honest, they struggle with an idol of ministry. In our hearts, many pastors struggle because they want to have a larger church, a larger platform, they want to be known, they want people to be changed by their sermons. Not all of these are wrong, but the motives often are. You will run out of steam if you have an idol. Be honest with someone, have someone ask you hard questions and hold you accountable.

5. Not leading from a place of burden. Leaders are idea machines. We read books, go to conferences, listen to podcasts, look for the latest trend, but those are ideas, not a vision. It is easy to confuse the two. A vision, what drives you, comes from a burden. Any leader, if you want to know their vision, ask about their burden. You must keep that in the forefront. I wake up and want to lead and build a church that helps to reach 20- to 40-year-olds. This burden is ingrained in experiences growing up and watching churches fail to reach not only this demographic, but men in particular.

6. Not dealing with emotions. One thing I was unprepared for was how emotionally tiring ministry and leadership can be. It can be hard to walk with people who get a divorce, get fired, wreck their lives, funerals, miscarriages. This can wreck your heart. You must learn to deal with the emotional ride that pastoring is. If you don’t, you will become a statistic.  

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Josh Reich is the lead pastor of Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ, the author of Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More & is passionate about helping people not settle in life and miss all that God has for them.