Despite all the documented stress, few pastors leave the pulpit behind each year. On average, 1% of senior Protestant pastors leave the pastorate each year for reasons other than death or retirement, according to a 2015 Lifeway Research study.
Unfortunately, some pastors are forced away from the pulpit due to moral failings. Specifically, a 2020 Lifeway Research study found large majorities of ministers themselves say pastors who commit child sex abuse or adult sexual assault should withdraw from ministry permanently.
But most of those who leave the pulpit do so for different reasons. They don’t leave because they committed a heinous crime. Many simply step away because they were overwhelmed by it all.
I don’t know of a pastor who begins their ministry with the plan to get burned out and leave it all behind. But some pastors will be part of that 1% every year. Here are six steps you can take to make it more likely you will join that select group (or you can avoid these characteristics and increase the likelihood you have a long, healthy ministry).
Former pastors are more likely than current pastors to say they went in without the right expectations and preparations for their ministry assignment.