When Is It Time for a Pastor to Leave a Church? Seven Scenarios

I am reticent to write this article. I do not want to encourage pastors to leave churches too early. Frankly, many pastors have shared with me that, in the aftermath of their departures, they realized they had made a mistake. They left too soon.

Many times the departure takes place between years two to four of a pastor’s tenure. That is the typical period when the “honeymoon” is over and some level of conflict, even crises, have begun. Many pastors who made it to years five and beyond express thanksgiving that they did not depart in those more difficult early years.

I confess that I left a church too soon. My family’s income was below the poverty line, and I was too proud to express my financial needs to any trusted church leader. The church’s income had tripled in my three-year tenure, so I could have easily been paid more. And I have little doubt that some of the leaders in the church would have gladly helped. My stupid and sinful pride got in the way.

So I have asked over thirty pastors why they left their previous church. Obviously, my survey is both informal and small. Still, the responses were both fascinating and telling. Here are the top seven responses in order of frequency, and they are not always mutually exclusive.

  1. “I had a strong sense of call to another church.” This response was articulated in a number of different ways, but the essence was the same. Slightly over half of the respondents left because of the “pull” rather than the “push.”
  2. “I became weary and distracted with all the conflict and criticisms.” What leader has not been here? What pastor has not been here? It is often a death by a thousand cuts.
  3. “I no longer felt like I was a good match for the church.” One pastor shared candidly that he felt like the church outgrew him. He said he had the skill set to serve a church with an attendance of 150. But when it grew to 500 after eight years, he felt that his leadership skills were not adequate to take the church any further.
  4. “I left because of family needs.” One pastor moved closer to his aging parents who had no one to care for them. Another indicated his family was miserable in their former church location.
  5. “I was fired or forced out.” This story is far too common. Of course, some of the other factors in this list overlap with this one.
  6. “I was called to a different type of ministry.” Some left to take a position other than lead pastor in another church. Others went into parachurch or denominational ministry. I am among those who left the pastorate for denominational work.
  7. “I was not paid adequately.” I related my own story above. Let me be clear. The pastors with whom I spoke were not seeking extravagant pay, just adequate pay. And like me, most of them were uncomfortable broaching the issue with any leaders in the church.

What do you think of these seven factors? What would you add? What have been your experiences?


  1. says

    I think I would add leaving due to a sense of completion – that the ministry has been taken as far as possible and the pastor would be better utilized somewhere else. This would not necessarily pertain to senior pastors as much as other ministry leaders.

    Left my last church due to #5, and it is, sadly, too common.

    • TJ says

      Jon I think you could see that as a form of #3. I was associate pastor of a church that had been through revitalization and was healthy and growing. While I was there the senior pastor, who had initiated the revitalization, realized that his calling and gifting was to bring about revitalization. Now that the church was revitalized, he didn’t know what to do next. He began to feel he had completed the work he was called to do and that he was called to move on to the next ministry.

      That church is currently healthy and growing with an intentional interim pastor and the former pastor is thriving in a new ministry (and I’m in a revitalization work myself).

      • says

        my question to u is this; will God ever tell a pastor to leave his position at the church , for a job in this world, Government/City Council job ect… and why would he do that when he put u in the I position.

  2. Bryan says

    The first church I pastored I stayed 8 years. Not 1 argument or criticism. The second lasted 2 years. I left because the total distance travelled each week was 150 miles.

    • Les Ferguson says

      Could you explain the context for your second church and why 150 miles/week was too much. I come from an area where clergy either travel very few miles to their Parishes or travel between 15 and 20 miles each way. Did you feel that being 15 miles from your Parish prevented you from fulfilling your responsibilities as Pastor?

      • jonathon says

        That 150 miles per week could be split up a nimber of different ways.
        * 1 roundtrip per week, on Sunday Morning.(75 miles each way);
        * 2 roundtrips per week: Sunday Morning and Wednesday Night);
        * 3 roundtrips per week: Sunday Morning, Wednesday Night, Sunday Night;
        * 4 roundtrips per week: Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, Wednesday Night, Thursday Night. (38 miles away each);

        That said, in the last year I have become convinced tbat if the pastor lives more than two blocks from the church, s/he lives too far away from the church to connect with the local community.
        (That applies equally to rural, semi-rural, sub-urban, and urban churches.)

        • says

          2 Blocks? I appreciate the sentiment but thats crazy. I live 3 miles from the building. I have members that live farther away than that. I am there at least 6 days a week and can “be there” pretty quick if needed. There are some homes I can get to quicker than my church’s building. I also pastored a church where I lived 30 miles from the building. That WAS difficult. But I did it 4 years.

        • says

          Two blocks from the church!?! A pastor can be involved in the community and live 15 or more miles from the church. I happen to live 15 minutes from the church. This is a great buffer for me and my family. I have lived in two parsonages in my ministry, both were right next door to the church and it was a constant struggle- if somebody needs in the church, they come over to get you to let them in (regardless of the time), since the parsonage is a part of the church property some members feel it is easily accessible and they should be able to walk in anytime they want unannounced just like the would the fellowship hall. It begins to put a strain on your family and your ministry.
          My grandfather was what we would call a successful pastor back in the ’70’s,’80’s and ’90’s. He gave me some great advice, that I would like to pass along as it relates to your comment. He told me, “To buy a house that was convenient for me to get to the church, but not for the church to get to me.” This is simply to protect your family time. Because, after all, we are husbands and fathers before we are pastors.

    • Colin says

      Be gracious my brother. This might help:

      1. “I had a strong sense of call to another church.”
      2. “God called me away due to all the conflict and criticisms.”
      3. “God impressed upon me that I no longer felt like I was a good match for the church.”
      4. “God wanted me to attend to my family needs.”
      5. “God allowed me to be fired or forced out.”
      6. “God called me to a different type of ministry.”
      7. “God impressed upon me to financially support my family as the head of the home.”

      Not as objective anymore.

  3. says

    I’d love for you to do a post on bad, or at least insufficient, reasons for leaving a church. This is something I discuss a lot with my seminary students.

  4. Tom Genovese says

    The number of men that succeed replacing men who have been in a particular ministry for more than 10 years, is very low as well. It is difficult for people to look to another pastor when they had a pastor that they loved and followed for a number of years.

  5. Brian says

    Have you ever felt like they will not follow scripture? They are a great group of people to be around and may even acknowledge their sin. I guess this is where conflict and criticism normally come in.

  6. Steve says

    To add to the earlier pastor’s idea of “completion,” I think there comes a time when the ministry just ends, not necessarily because you did a great job or a poor one, but you are just no longer going to be effective there. God’s door of opportunity in that location has come to a close, and He is sending you somewhere else. Sometimes churches need different leaders for different seasons, and one set of gifts is better for one season than another.

    That being said, I think the challenge is to tell the difference between “these people won’t listen and I’m tired of them” and God closing the door and moving a person forward. I’d like to see some wisdom from you and others on how to tell the difference.

  7. says

    I was at my former church for just over 13 years. God was so good to us. It was evident to me that my task was completed and the course that God had plotted for that particular congregation under my leadership took 13 years, but we arrived at our destination. There was no doubt in my faith that we had finished our task.

  8. Frank Winfrey says

    I serve as pastor in a small church now for almost four years and I live 44 miles one direction from my church. I commute twice on Sundays and once on Wednesday each week in addition to times when I am needed. The pay package for a full time position is a reasonable package for a pastor living in the community or even if the church still provided housing which was sold in 1996. So long story short, four years serving with absolutely no increase to my compensation certainly causes some stress in providing for my family. But what pains me the most is the refusal to pay a social security offset which I requested when I first went there. I wonder what it will take to help smaller, rural churches to comprehend that the number printed on the budget for pastor is an inaccurate reflection of what actually supports his family.

    • Mark says

      Even though many pastors are hesitant to involve a lawyer, they should when it is matters of the language of their contract/call/etc.

  9. Hal says

    I’m aware that my comment will probably fall under one of the seven categories already mentioned.

    One reason is that the pastor may leave is because he discovers that the doctrine of the leadership conflicts with that of Scripture. The sign on the front of the building may indicate that this is a church that follows a certain doctrinal bent, but it isn’t until the pastor is hired that he may discover two years down the road that the leadership there does not even believe or follow its own doctrine.

    This is one reason why a lot of questions need to be asked during the interview process.

    I know of a minister that came from a very conservative church from the south and became a pastor at a church of the same denomination only it was located in the upper Midwest.

    He was not there long when he discovered there were people serving in ministries within this church who were at the same time living blatantly open, unrepentant and wanton sinful lives. This was a situation that would not have been tolerated at all in the churches down south, but when he challenged the leadership concerning this he was met with strong resistance by the leaders as if this was a common practice and no big deal. Being unable to convince this leadership otherwise, he resigned his position.

    Had this pastor asked more questions during the interviewing process he could have saved himself the grief of dealing with this unknown situation later.

  10. Mickey says

    While I have experienced #3 and #5 I am now leaving my current pastorate of 6 years due to a different reason. The “lay leadership” of this church is not committed to the great commission. Most of the time they are not even committed to attending worship services, Bible study or prayer services. They talk the walk but do not walk it. After being here for two years and being in the community I found out that the reputation of this ministry was, to say the least, not very good. People have been told in the past that they were in the wrong church because of their ethnicity(color of skin); because they didn’t dress properly (suit & tie) and more. While there are a few that actually want to worship the one true living God and reach out there are many who worship the church itself and what has been done in the past. Since the late 1800’s I am the 3rd longest serving pastor here.

    • Heat says

      I say to you, don’t give up on those in the congregation that are committed followers of Christ, that may be the reason why you are there.
      There are ways of weeding out those who are not committed. I am a lay leader at my church, and we have the same situation with some of the other leaders, they want to be there when they want to be there.
      I have watched over the past year our new pastor having to deal with this and I feel he has done an excellent job, he has always said he would rather have a church of 20 committed followers than of 300 pew sitters.
      Don’t forsake the few for the many.

      • says

        It is very difficult to work with a mindset that you are alone. 2Cor 6:1-2. I have always believe that if you’re are in the “prison of God’s purpose” as Jemimah,then let it be so. God is responsible for the results. It may be that the generation that receives the Word of God gladly is the only ones you can build up in the faith. Numbers may be lacking but the power of God is sufficient.

      • Mickey says

        Heat, I’m not giving up on the few (7 at best, including my wife). With a few others(including the 7) in the county I live in we have begun a parachurch ministry. We live in a county in NC that has a poverty rate above 20%. We will be helping all the churches in the area in their ministries reaching out to others. It is, for lack of better words, a “helps” ministry. We will have a food pantry that will be available to the local churches to utilize as none of them have their own food pantry. Another part of the ministry will be home repair for the elderly and those who truly cannot afford the costs involved in repairs. A third part of this ministry will be a clothes closet. We will hold an open giveaway 3 or 4 times a year plus it will be available for emegencies (fires, disasters, etc,). And for the fires/disasters we will have some household furnishings. We have been blessed with the use of 2300 sq. ft. of storage/office space at no expense plus an old school gym to use for the clothing giveaways. This is a ministry that is in it’s birth stage but has already begun making an impact in the community. A 4th aspect of this will be a nondenominational (Biblical & conservative) Bible study which again has the backing of local churches and pastors as most of them do not have Sun. or Wed. evening services and there are people who want more. This will be a ministry that evolves as the Lord leads. The name says it all “God’s Will.” We want to do and follow His will.

        • Dennis Smith says

          I am blessed to have a small and elderly congregation. I have found a hugh need for Sunday and Wednesday services. So many churches in all denominations no longer offer these services. We always have more people attending on these nights than on Sunday morning. I counted 6 different denominations on one particular occasion. We focus on Jesus and not the color of the paint on the walls.

  11. Dane Gray says

    I left my first church after 12 years because I felt the church was satisfied and was no longer willing to follow my direction.

  12. says

    A friend left a growing church because he felt The Lord was done with him as the church hit a plateau in growth for a period of time. Later he realized he made a terrible mistake and it took him years to get back into the will of God. He confided to me that what he thought as God being finished with him was just a time of rest before another season of growth. He said he left too soon and regretted it. Unfortunately the church did not recover and hit a terrible time of decline.

    • says

      Maybe it was a rest period before the time of decline. Whichever, why did it take years to get back into God’s will? Maybe he was IN God’s will the whole time. Maybe God’s will for us is to make our best decisions with what we’ve got and move on. Of course if his decision was based on selfishness, pride, etc. then bad decisions can be made. I have been out of a ministerial position before and while it wasn’t where I wanted to be I was exactly where God had me. I think that means I was in His will, just not in a pastorate.

  13. Mark says

    Churches also change. Membership turnover over 5-10 years is significant, especially in the cities. The new members may have a problem relating to the pastor. It is not always the pastor’s fault. Also, some pastors are more fix-it than sustain it. That means that problems get fixed and the congregation gets on firmer footing and that the expertise of the pastor can then be used somewhere else.

    I once told a pastor that I saw the congregation taking a liking to a person who was related to quite a few and who knew how to preach and would be returning state side in a few years. He went to a different church in a different state before he could be let go.

    I wish you would write a post on bad leadership and how that makes good pastors and members want to leave ASAP.

  14. says

    In our 40yrs. of ministry my husband and I have been involved in 5 church plants and 3 restarts. We left when we felt that our ministry was completed. Except for one church, we always got to choose our replacement.

    I would add that when a pastor can no longer “lead” that he should leave. If the leadership and the people are against the new direction, he should move on rather than split the church.

  15. Clayton says

    I left my first pastorate after four years because they couldn’t afford me and I couldn’t afford to live on their income ($13,500) plus parsonage total. However, seven years later I still feel a if I left too early and abandoned them.

    I left the second church due to the “Big frog in the little pond” syndrome. The chair deacon wanted me to plan, teach, and administrate his way, and to theologically align with his uneducated opinions. He passive aggressively undermined my ability every chance he got. The rest of the deacons agreed with me that he should be dealt with, but due to his business relationships with many church members they repeatedly backed down and commented “Oh that’s just ******, don’t worry about it.” It affected almost all of the relationships within that church. I have no regret leaving; that was a rough 3/4 years.
    I’m presently in my third year following a pastor who served here 38 years. It is still going well in spite of the first two years full of conflict. I see God’s hands in this. Pray for me.

  16. Jeremy says

    Fresh out of undergrad, I took a Sr. Minister position at a small church in a rural town. As a born and raised city boy I never really fit in. After 4 years, there was no one in the church or the community that my wife and I considered close friends, despite our best efforts to build relationships. Additionally, it became very apparent that the members were not going to move forward, try new things, invite anyone to church, or change anything whatsoever. So after 4 years of feeling very alone and trying to lead a church that had no interest in changing or fulfilling the great commission, I left with no regrets and no one that seemed to care all that much.

    • S. Radford says

      Been there. It’s rather awkward to leave like knowing that no one cared if you left. In my case I wondered if they even cared that I was called there to begin with. Be blessed man of God!

    • Anthony says

      Jeremy, My family is in the same situation. Four years and no close friends. We have carried each deacon and his family out to dinner. Had multiple meetings, fellowships, get to gathers at out house. No one in the church we pastor-(I am the pastor but our whole family attend and take part in a small rural church) has ever invited us for supper or reciprocated. I was ready to leave in year two and talked with a director of missions. He was not surprised. We left out previous church after nearly 20 years of good ministry. We are trying one more push to make this church our home but it seems more like a foreign mission field in a hostile country.
      No outreach.
      No fellowship.
      Constant bickering family members.
      And they ask me why folks in the community don’t seem to like our church.

      So, we hang tough and follow God. And thankful, I am bivocational.

  17. Alan says

    I planted a new church in a small town. After a long period of feeling like I’m carrying around 1000 extra pounds, I’ve come to the conclusion that this ministry is unsustainable. Outside funding is ending and we can’t make even 50% of our budget after more than 4 years. The reality is that it just can’t survive. BUT, the sponsoring body says they don’t want it closed. No solutions, no help, just don’t close it. This only compounds the stress. If I walk away I look like a jerk, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand.

  18. Jeff says

    I feel for you Jeremy. I too have a similar situation. I came here to my current church to serve part-time as I completed my studies. Through a long course of events I become the senior pastor. I’ve been serving in that role for over 7 years now. I’ve tried to leave several times but God has decided otherwise.

    I would add to the list the “loneliness” factor. If you are a younger pastor, serving in a smaller congregation made up of older members, it is challenging to find meaningful friendships. Being far away from family and the support they bring is especially challenging when the ministry poses its challenges.

    I so often question whether I should even pastor. I question whether I’m gifted…or thick skinned…or patient enough to fill the pastor’s role. I feel another church would provide me a better handle to assess my fit in the local church.


  19. Chuck Lawless says

    I left my second pastorate in order to pursue education. At the time, seminaries generally expected students to move to a campus to complete their work. That’s not the case anymore, though — many institutions offer non-residential graduate studies, including PhD work.

  20. Aubert Rose says

    Remember while working with Dr. Stanley in Atlanta in the ’70’s that Dr. Criswell would tell him it takes 7 years to become Pastor after you are called. Interesting!

  21. Nathan says

    I am not the senior pastor but I am thinking it may be time to go. I have been serving as youth/college pastor and secretary for 10 years. Our pastor of 17 years retired due to health concerns in September and passed away in December. He felt strongly that I was to succeed him. I had a member come to me last week and say that the reason our church is struggling is that “[I] am what’s left of the former pastor’s mistakes.” So I am supposed to sit down and be quiet, pray for a new pastor, and if there is enough money left I can stay.

  22. James Horsley says

    I’m not a pastor but I have known several and I’m friends with several. From the list of seven I see only two that would warrant a pastor leaving a church “he has been called to serve”. The rest are personal reasons and have nothing to do with God’s calling on his life. Personal reasons bring two things into question. First, what or who called him to serve that church? Was it the money, the congregation or did he feel God’s calling on his life to serve His church in that location? Second question is just like the first but in this manner. Who or what called him into the ministry? If it was God then the only reason a person should ever leave is because God lead him in another direction. I understand each circumstance is different, but God never changes. To leave for personal reasons is to basically say “God I have to fix this and don’t trust you to provide. I know best”

    • Anthony says

      James, am I understanding you correctly that there are only two reasons to leave a church? And other reasons are wrong (sinful?). Is that what you are saying? Thanks for the clarification.

      • James says

        Not at all. What I’m saying is that to leave for any other reason then that of God’s calling on your life elsewhere, is to say your trust in God to provide and correct in a situation is lacking. If you are called to serve a people God has put you in their lives for a reason. Find that reason and don’t just turn your back on those people because of personal reasons. Not sinful at all, just not trusting.

    • Cody Hale says

      What about the ordinary means of providence? Doesn’t God primarily heal people through doctors and medicine, though He may certainly do so divinely? Could God not use healthy, personal reasons to prompt you toward a new season of ministry? I would say that this is how He normally works. Often, a pastor will sense a dissatisfaction with some area of his ministry or personal life before being called to a new place of service. God uses that dissatisfaction to open his eyes and mind to a new season. This is why Dr. Rainer often speaks of both a push and a pull in seeking God’s direction for your ministry.

  23. David Hemphill says

    It appears that if # 1 is true for you
    – than #s 2 & 3 are most probably also true for you
    – # 4 may likely be true
    – and #s 6 & 7 might apply

  24. James E Clark says

    I feel that one reason is do to the doubt and struggle over their sin. I know a good friend and pastor who left because of the inner struggle. Worst yet, I have known some Pastors to ashame to admit there struggle that ended up taking their lives. Brothers please seek unity and accoutnability in your asociations or ciclres.

  25. Ron says

    I was a product of #5, I was forced out, but in reality, I was wrongfully terminated. Two attorney’s said I should sue for a large sum of money. I chose the high road, enough said.

  26. wayne spoonts says

    I once heard someone say that you know it is time to leave a church when one has more dreams than they have vision.

  27. says

    This article is heartbreaking! The calling of a Shepherd is just so much more to me than what is seen! I just wonder though….does any of these men feel supported by their family? I really believe this call is for the entire family and they need that surrounding wall of support from home and family both close and extended. Secondly I wonder do the feel the call is to the “city” which would include marketplace and education and government? I think this call is just not one you can “quit” ……it is given into your spirit and one you can’t just walk away from much like God can’t walk away from Israel. I do believe you may move or make changes but I don’t know seems those cities and those in the city are still yours to Shepherd one way or another – maybe God is just “adding” to them?!

  28. Larry McKeon says

    Just this past Sunday, the Pastor of a church I have been visiting pretty regulary gave his resignation. He has been the Senior Pastor for aprox. 14 yrs. and though I’m not a member I suspect his health and family were his primary reasons for stepping down. The frustrating part, at least from the outside looking in is this church of aprox 500 lost their Youth Pastor and Worship Director all within a few months of each-other. The church itself has been around since the early 1900s and has a strong congregation dedicated to the Great Commission, but please keep this church in Clarksville in your prayers.

    • DWg says

      Larry – Clarksville TN? I have several good pastor friends in that area… great area! Pray for the next pastor!

  29. Jan says

    My husband and I are currently pastoring a small church. We love the people. We have been at this church about five years. He is preaching a series on reviving ourselves. There has been no response and some actually are sleeping through the services. We are doing the work, m most of the people are older, the church is struggling both financially and numerically. My husband has begun to consider leaving. But in our late 50s he is considering leaving the ppastorate all together. This is our fifth church. It is a difficult decision. He is not sure at our age another church, any different, would consider us.

    • James says

      Don’t get down hearted. Age should never be a reason to stop what God has called you to do. A great example of this is our current interim Director of Missions. The man is 89 years old and still going. I asked him at his age why he doesn’t retire his response was this… “The One I work for has a better retirement plan then any this world has to offer and I took the job of working for Him knowing that the work would never be finished”. Praying for you and your husband.

  30. Kevin Strausbaugh says

    I have been the pastor of our church for the last 13 years. This past Sunday I was verbally and physically assaulted by a church member. I have been under attack from them for the last few months because they disagreed with a decision the whole church made in a business meeting. Last Wednesday I was given a nasty letter and then Sunday morning my wife was jumped on and then myself. The man got in my face screaming at the top of his lungs in and hitting me in the chest with his finger. My daughter is 13 and is refusing to go back and my son is 8 and is scared to death that something is going to happen to me and I won’t ever come home if I go back. Please pray for our family!

  31. Jason says

    Number five is far too common. I experienced it this past January and we are still trying to get over the hurt and chaos it has caused our family and are still out of ministry. As I have talked with other ministers I have found more and more that churches like to cut out the person rather than address the problem regardless of the fallout.

  32. says

    One issue that I don’t often see addressed when it comes to taking or leaving a church is distinguishing between personal emotion and the will of God. Sadly, these two are too often confused. Leaving a church is a difficult, and very often an emotionally charged, event. Whatever the reason, emotions are high.

    Pastors considering leaving always ask, “Is it time?” “Is this what God really wants?” And I believe they always ask, “How do I know this is God’s will and not my will?” Some follow their emotions, thinking that God speaks that way. Some go with reason and logic, thinking that’s God’s voice However, when is it God speaking or our emotions screaming? Sometimes our emotions blind us or mislead us.

    When seeking God’s will, something I started doing a few years ago is asking God to make his will absolutely clear, for him not to let me be led by emotions or logic. I always tell him that I don’t want to have any doubts that it is his will. I don’t need the specific future plans, only absolute certainty that I am hearing God’s voice amidst the emotional avalanche. So far he has not disappointed, and I don’t think such requests are sinful prayers or doubtful, but rather faithful: faithful to making sure we hear God clearly so that we don’t wander astray.

    I’d love to see a discussion on how to walk through the storm of emotions to hear God’s voice. We all know the platitudes and stories (small, still voice in the storm; just stop and listen), but the ‘how’ is the hard part. How do we do this? This is a worthy dialog.

  33. says

    Not to “plug” a book that is not from the Rainer family, but as I have struggled with the “call” and “questions about leaving or staying at a church” – I picked up a small – thin book by Jeff Iorg at the convention this year – called “Is God Calling Me” – it has been helpful and insightful as to answering the call and reasons to leave or stay at a church. Might I suggest it to some that struggling to enter the ministry and for some that considering leaving the ministry. It might help some in this area of life.

  34. Josh Fraley says

    I am in the process of leaving my first senior pastor position after only 2-1/2 years. God is calling me to another position in a another county. However, as He is leading, He is also proving and confirming to me week after week of the lack of Christ-likeness and the absolute absence of forgiveness and grace among the church members. The church consist of 100 people who all seem to be operating with their individual agendas. I have peace now because God has opened the new door.

  35. Dan says

    I’m at my first pastorate of 13+ years, and often thought of leaving, but continue to be impressed of God’s promised growth, reiterated through various people. However It isn’t yet happening. I fear leaving too soon for some of the regrets mentioned in other posts. But I fear some are in the church because of me, and leaving will give them an excuse to seek other churches rather than build on what has been established. I desire for God to be the glue that holds the church together, not the pastor.

  36. Robert says

    In October 2012 our Senior Pastor of 27 years “retired” and became Pastor Emeritus. He was 70 years old at the time and in good health. This was the culmination of a well thought out, well planned, very orderly four year transition process that was well received by the congregation and the community. During the Pastor Emeritus’s tenure the church grew from around 200 to 1,100 in attendance. The new Senior Pastor is an MK and came from within the church. He was 29 at the time of his installation and had served only a one year pastoral internship prior to the beginning of the transition process. Since October 2012 attendance has increased by 400 and two new pastoral staff positions have been added. After an agreed on three month absence, the Pastor Emeritus and his wife are still active in the church. Soli Deo Gloria!

  37. Gord says

    I was surprised by Pastors referring to their low pay. Our small church (55 members) ties the Pastor’s salary to the current pay-scale of Principals in our province. Needless to say, our Pastors have always been well paid. And we are not wealthy congregants; strictly blue collar.

  38. Nate Silver says

    I am currently in my first pastorate and have been here 11+ years. I took the pastorate as a 22 year old single, two year degree, young man. Now I am a husband and father. In the past 11 years there have been many conflicts with leadership, members, and trouble with inadequate pay. I believe that there will always be some sort of conflict due to the fact that we are called to a battlefield. In my ministry I have seen many opportunities for outreach to our community get passed by and also ministry to our own congregation get scoffed at by members. However, about four years ago our church began a ministry to a housing project in our rural WNC town. We were able to see 17 churches come together and do a VBS and now we are working continually with the residents of this apartment complex. It has brought a sense a worth and responsibility to our congregation.
    Now, after 11 years our numbers have not grown exponentially, yet the congregation has changed. I have the opportunity to work with a group of people wanting to make a difference at home and abroad. I believe the key to seeing this change has been perseverance. I had the opportunity to leave for more money several times, as well as being called to “bigger” churches. Yet the “calling” wasn’t there. My family still struggles financially and we still face hardships, but God has within the last two weeks saved 5 people and there are 7 to baptize. I still feel a strong sense of calling to this congregation. I believe at the end of the day God makes plan when it is time to go. At one point in my ministry my wife and I were discussing me leaving. She simply said “God loves this congregation and you. If He wants you to leave He will make it clear.” I thank God for His clarity.

  39. David says

    A different observation….I fear far too many men recognizing the call of God to the pastorate respond in kind, that is to say they enter the pastorate, but with a similar mind-set of the thousands who get married every year. “If it ever gets to the point where “the love is gone” I’ll just get a divorce. Point in case, your opening statement, “I do not want to encourage pastors to leave churches too early.” Leave churches too early? This is voiced on the assumption that pastors WILL leave the church they are currently pastoring. Is “until death do us part” a statement that is onion-paper thin, and should not this apply to our call of shepherding as much as it does to the God ordained partnership of marriage? From the words of one of our well known associates, “brothers, we are not professionals.” Ours is not a job! We don’t throw out resumes in hopes of “landing the big one” only to realize two to four years later “it just wasn’t a good fit!” And then start the search process all over again, then two to four years later do it again, and again, and again, until we reach retirement age then kick back in retirement. Am I too naive in my five years of ministry to think that the one church I pastor will be the ONLY church I’ll pastor? Lord, cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift my soul to You.

    • says

      I have served the church I pastor for 15 years. But I am not married to it. I am married to my wife. I am not trying to leave or longing to leave. Trials come where ever one serves. But all people have different skills, talents, and gifts. It may be that God would move a pastor/minister to another church that could use what he is equipped with and the church being left needs someone else.

  40. Glenn says

    I served my previous church for 12 years. We relocated our physical plant and one month after we paid off the mortgage / debt, God moved my family to another church. I felt complete and that I had finished the task for which He called me there. God has moved me to a ministry that was beyond my abilities and He has grown me in the past Four years. I do not buy into the marriage theme iterated above. I think God uses different churches to grow us and uses us to help churches to grow. Sometimes he grows both together for a lifetime.

    • David says

      Bro. Glenn,
      I am not at all suggesting that God can’t, won’t, or doesn’t move His shepherds under His sovereign will. It seems however that the norm any more is the movement of pastors and not the stability of pastors. It is rare that we hear of a pastor staying at one church for twenty, twenty-five, thirty years or longer. By comparison (or in similarity) it is also rare that those in the secular world remain employed at a company through to retirement. Has this mindset of the world crept into the pastorate?

  41. ken ross says

    The hurt and the hell which brings about leaving is only felt by God. No one else can even warrant an opinion, Mercy and grace is needed from our brothers and sister’s in Christ. Perhaps the greatest need is not finding out why, but finding the healing.

  42. Karen says

    I work for what is termed para church but we work through local churches. Over my lifetime I have been a member at 5 churches involving more pastors than that. One concept that helped me was when the Lord showed me I was and that sometimes people relate to leadership out of personal need and this can cause hurt and confusion. One example was a need for affirmation that caused competition. If we understand it, sometimes all we need is to recognize and adjust our attitude and sometimes it can be talked out. Understanding the stages of relationship is helpful and conflict that can be resolved leads to deeper relationship.
    The Lord has spoken to my heart with these thoughts – If it is different than you expected are you still going to be faithful? – Doubting others motives can become accusations. – The gift of prophecy or vision needs to be worded in such a way that others do not perceive it as – you or it are not good enough. – Hearing the words Leading from the second chair, helped me think about some situations creatively. Sometimes doing something right can cause in others when you are not there, that person expressing that pain can third parties to criticize. That doesn’t mean you did it wrong.
    Biblical characters were encouraged when they were down. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was so because George was mostly overcoming obstacles. See if the Lord will bring someone you can pray with confidentially. The gospel became real to me when I started working with inmates and saw the need of those who did not have it. If you did not show up it would leave a huge hole in many lives even if they did not know it. Be encouraged.

  43. says

    I am 77 years young-came out of retirement after some 40 years in the ministry. 2008 i was asked to pastor a little country church in Maiine. The church was closed for thirty one years. 2009 we became a real church in 2009-Joined the SBC in 2012-here it is 2014, and God has kept us here. Many times I felt like giving up. The honey moon was ovfer, and many heart breaking events tok place. However-God has not released us yet from here, and now we have a small body of true believers, a secured foundation. Just think what could have happened if we had left? When God want us to leave He will give us that Peace, Amen.

  44. Pastor Keith says

    It is my conviction that the only reasons for a pastor to leave a church is that he is voted out, his health declines or he becomes too old to lead. My conviction and position on pastors leaving a church is not all that popular with my peers and we have debated this numerous times as this is a reoccurring event in our area. My conviction and position on this matter is derived from the men of God in the bible that lead the people of God. They were inadequate in their abilities, they were rejected, verbally assaulted, people murmured and complained about their leadership, they weren’t taken seriously by the people they led and the list goes on as to how they were mistreated but at no time did God lead them to leave the people that they were leading.

    This is what guides me in this. God is all knowing and all seeing. He knew what would happen in the place that he sent you before he sent you but still he sent you there. When what God already knows is going to happen happens, that doesn’t give us grounds or reasons to leave. In all of the post that I read I do not recall anyone saying that God sent them to the particular church that they left or that God sent them to the church they currently pastor but rather “I took on this church” or “I became pastor” and etc, brethren we must be led by God for this vocation by which he has called us or more and more of us will burnout, resign or checkout of life because of the overwhelming pressures and stress of being a pastor.

    Each time this subject has come up among my peers it’s always event related, someone has left a church and I sit quietly and listen to them tell the story of why they left and this and that and the story always has something to do with “they wouldn’t follow me” “they refused to raise my salary” “there’s a bigger church that’s interested in me” I’ve only heard once or twice “God said it was time for me to leave” but as I continued to listen and the other shoe fell and it was actually one of the other reasons why they actually left.

    I do not believe that a pastor that is God focused can become noneffective in the place where he plants him, he must continue to evolve with time and remain relevant to the people that God has placed him over.

    I think the problem in our society is that there are way too my evangelist that are becoming pastors rather than continuing to do the work of an evangelist. Being a pastor takes a special anointing in order that you my be able to bear the people that God has given you charge over.

    There are those who have left one church for another and they highlight their success there as validation that they were right about leaving as do people in marriage who divorce and remarry, they often highlight the success of the subsequent marriage as validation that they were right about leaving but they never take into consideration that the second marriage is better because of the lessons you learned in the first one and truth be told if you had gone to counseling and applied some of these lessons then you could have turned around that marriage as well IF this is he marriage that God led you into and not that you just got yourself into.

    This is just my humble take on the matter, not throwing rocks at anyone just conveying my conviction, the same conviction that I approach my current pastorate with. I am in my second year of my second pastorate, the first was a church plant that was dissolved prior to my relocation due to military service. I am thoroughly convinced that I am where God wants me to be and I told the congregation that no amount of money, nor any disagreement with leadership can make me leave because for me to leave would be for me to disobey God however, they could vote me out and I would become the best darn Sunday school teacher kids have ever had this side of heaven but I absolutely would not leave because my assignment is in this field.


  45. John says

    Isn’t the pastorate an interesting calling/profession? It seems every day I struggle with the do I still like doing this after 30 plus years or not. Two years ago I was serving bi-vocationally and really loved my “Secular” job…but I knew it was time to leave the church. Which meant leaving the secular work as well. I ended up in a full time church in a typical small town…and just yesterday I told my wife that I love/hate the ministry all at the same time! It is very tough, to be sure…and there are always a million reasons to leave…all very good ones…and usually very sound. But there are also many reasons to stay. Like the Facebook comment from a lady we helped last year who moved away…and now has found Christ and is loving her life! To the youth we taught 25 years ago…now writing us notes of thanks and encouragement. It’s the block party and VBS we just had that went beyond the church’s wildest expectations. It’s the lady I just talked to on the phone who is getting out of the hospital who I just baptized a month ago. Yes, the ministry is a pain in the behind. No doubt about it. I love it. I hate it. The pay stinks. Taxes on it stinks. All of us knew that going in. But I am called to it. And my hope is that one day I will hear “well done, good and faithful servant”. I have been blessed by a wife who shares in my calling. I am blessed with children who grew up as ministers kids and STILL love the church! Yes, I could have many a great living doing something else…but praise God…He knows right where He wants me…and for now…that is right where I am.

  46. Deltaboy says

    We left a church after an Auto accident and the deaths of my in-laws less than a year later back in 2008. We have supplied the past 3 years as needed but just this Summer updated my resume and started looking for a new place to serve.
    I have been Bivocational my entire career and I never made over a thousand dollars a month.

  47. Liz says

    I have been pastoring the same small church for 21 years. The current membership is 35, and only half attend regularly. And less than half attend prayer on Wednesdays. I have been tempted to quit many, many times, and there are days that I feel so discouraged and heartbroken that I can barely stand it. I am a bi-vocational pastor and my tithes/offering is largely what sustains the Church. The saints who attend regularly are the only reason why I stay, particularly because I do not have the kind of fellowship that I have longed for with the elders of the Church, even after years of praying together, sharing, tears and confessions. I often feel like my labor has been in vain in this area and what is so heartbreaking is that I could deal with the size of the Church if I felt I had a strong and growing relationship with the elders. I am here still because of the faithful few who would likely not go to Church anywhere at all if I left, or so they say, but my deep lonliness and feelings of failure and rejection are overwhelming at times. I make a very good living as a NYC Banker, and I have been told that I am an excellent speaker. Thankfully I do not ‘need the pastorate’ for the money or for a ‘sense of self.’ I would be fine financially if I left, and I am not without a ‘life’ for want of a better term. I would just be heartbroken I think to see the past 20+ years of my life ‘go down the drain’ (again, for want of a better term). Please pray for me as I want to ‘finish my course with joy’, however I have not experienced too much joy of late. Just heartache after heartache and much disappointment. Thank you in advance for those of you who will pray for me and my husband, who also has been one of true faithful of the church, along with our adult children and their families.

  48. Bradley says

    I NEED QUICK RESPONSE PLEASE and thank you in advance. small church with about 35-50 each Sunday in church. we have a young first time pastor with a masters degree. we came 4 years ago but never new the previous pastor of 19 years. the only paid people are part time sec. and pastor and cleaning guy. Church budget is 100k and we pay 54k total compensation to our pastor. we have a extra income from a rental 36k but church voted a long time ago never to be used for salayries and the whole church voted on how to use that money. Missions building maint. evangelism ect. The main foundation people about 7 families are not happy with his leadership and he prefers to talk everything with e-mails and face book instead of face to face. He has lobbied his closes friend in the church who is on the personal commity to get a 14k raise and use that (special money) as the source knowing it would split the church. I am also on the personal commity. We have voted down his request and tonight I have been elected to tell him. in three years the church has not grown and money has not grown. I believe 54k total is fair wage considering how small and he never spends any hours at the chuch office, really maybe 1-2 hours a week. Need opionion???? fast

  49. Dan says

    I’m right there with #2; I am exhausted with all the internal conflict and and constant criticism of everything I do. “Death by a thousand cuts.” That’s me. I don’t know how much more I can take. I have been pastor of this church for nearly 20 years, I am trying to move the church forward, reach out to the next generation, involve younger people in leadership, but the old guard will not have it. They are attacking me on all fronts and making my life miserable. A deacon in the church has left and is guiding the rebellion from the outside. I cannot fight this battle much longer. I am praying about stepping out of the pastorate and working a secular job. Your book, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” fits this group to a tee. It has become control at any cost and after I leave I fear this church will further decline as the old guard, all in their 70’s and 80’s resumes full control. It’s what they want. Pray for me.

      • Dan says

        Thank you, Brother Thom, I appreciate that very much. I have read some of your articles and recently discovered your blog. What I have read has been a great encouragement. I’m a 92 grad of SBTS. Sorry we have never met. Your book, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” was a real eye opener. I see much of those danger signs in my church and I have seen them in many other churches. I have flat out told the church, from the pulpit, that unless things change, the church may be extinct in 5-10 years. The old guard isn’t listening and continues to oppose me on the most minor changes I try to make that might result in church growth. In 20 years, the church has declined from an average worship attendance of 110 down to about 75. We’re in a small Virginia community surrounded by churches suffering a similar fate. I’ve had to take on a part-time job to make ends meet (another source of conflict and criticism), we can get by if I resign, but it’s all very hard. My wife and I love this church; we’ve devoted 20 years of our lives here. Raised our children here. This has become home. It’s heartbreaking to see the church declining and these people (Sr. adults who are quickly dying off!) opposing me and creating constant friction and conflict in the church. If I resign, the few young families we have probably will not stay. My wife and I are praying for guidance and sort of waiting to see what happens. I am just worn out brother. I’m tired of the attacks and criticisms. The deacon who turned on me used to be my friend. Sharing this is a real comfort.
        Thanks again brother. I didn’t mean to ramble on so.

        • Thom Rainer says

          Dan: You are not rambling. I’m grateful you feel the freedom to share on this blog. You are not alone. There are many other pastors in similar situations. Even more importantly, God is with you. I don’t know what He has planned for you next, but i am praying that it will be the greatest years of your ministry.

  50. Leigh says

    I’m a pastor’s wife and my husband just resigned from our church after serving for almost 13 years. This was our first pastorate. We have 3 children, and it was very tough, but just felt that God directed us that it was time. We left on good terms, but I’m dealing with so many emotions and hurt that I didn’t expect after being gone for a couple months. Are there any books that you can recommend for dealing with the aftermath of leaving and the emotions that come with it?

  51. Jim says

    I’m a pastor of a church which after years of successful ministry has suddenly launched into a campaign of gossip and slander against me. I hate going to work. I not only want to leave this church, I want to leave the ministry, because I see how terrible Christians can be in the name of customer service.

  52. Pastor's Wife says

    Thanks Thom for this post. My husband (Pastor) and I are prayerfully considering if it is time for us to move on from our 5 year ministry. We have made it through some hard times in this ministry, but frankly we are beginning to feel that they just can not afford to keep him, the one paid staff they have.

    There have been great successes in our current ministry and even more strife and conflict. The church was in turmoil when the previous pastor (of 25 years) left. He left the church strangled by a mountain of debt left by his manifest destiny plan of “if you build it they will come.” When that didn’t happen – he left. The church had an interim for 2 years. During that time your would expect that much of the conflict in the church should have been dealt with (even if you couldn’t get rid of the debt) but was not. The first 3 years of our ministry were spent cleaning up the mess AND taking all the bullets for things that we had nothing to do with.

    Things are more unified now, but frankly, there is no great passion for The Lord in these people – and financially they just can’t afford to keep the doors open and pay staff. My husband has not received a raise since he arrived. They do not provide any benefits, or reimburse any pastoral expenses. Anytime this is mentioned to the Elders or Finance Committee they say ‘we just don’t have the money, or our research suggests you are paid fairly’ (which we have shown them is incorrect per annual our denominational surveys).

    I work for the church for free (about 20-30 hours a week) – filling whatever hole there is in the ministry. We have considered that I should just get a job to help our family finances, but I am not sure my husband could bear the weight of all the work without my help.

    We do know The Lord has provided for us – because we have all that we need and some of what we want – which is a lot more than some. The combination of #2, #3, #4, #7 are the reasons we are prayerfully seeking God’s will for us to stay or go. We have a child graduating this year and we don’t know how we will afford college next year, or for our other child down the road.

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