If A Pastor Breaks In The Forest, Does Anyone Hear Him Weep?

Each Month, 1700 Pastors Leave The Ministry
Each Month, 1700 Pastors Leave The Ministry

Back at the end of August, I was at a life and career coaching conference up near Nashville, TN. I had an absolutely awesome time. It was life changing, but not in the way I expected.

I went there with the expectation of learning some ideas about launching a business idea I had in mind. I got those ideas and have poured over them many times since the conference and began a launch plan. However, something else grabbed me and simply won’t let me go.

I couldn’t help but notice the high percentage of ministers and former ministers who were there looking for new career opportunities. Most were burned out or too broke to stay in ministry full time. Also, one of the featured presenters was formerly a successful Youth Minister; in fact, he was the YM liaison for his denomination. He needed a change and sought a secular career as a keynote speaker and a trainer of keynote speakers. He is still very much a strong Believer, but needed a new career path.

During one of the breaks, I asked him what percentage of attendees in his speaker conferences were currently in Full Time Ministry. He said, ‘roughly 20%’.

I spent much of the evening thinking about how many Pastors might actually be considering leaving the ministry, and what the reasons might be. Since then, I’ve been nearly obsessed with learning what’s going on inside the heads of local Pastors and Missionaries.

I’ve studied many surveys and websites for and about Pastors and their challenges. I knew many of them, because of my own long history as a missionary and a local Church minister, but some of them have seriously impacted me. For example:

1700 Pastors leave the ministry each month, half with no job to go to

50% of newly ordained Pastors won’t last 5 years.

¾ won’t last 10 years

Only 1 in 10 pastors will retire as a pastor.

80% say ministry has negatively impacted their families. Spouses agree.

90% feel inadequately prepared by colleges and seminaries.

In one survey, 40% acknowledged having an extramarital affair since entering the ministry.

72% admitted to only studying the Bible for sermon prep

70% said they have no personal friends.

Statistics are remarkably similar for full time missionaries. According to Baptist International Outreach, a very conservative Mission agency based in TN, up to 50% of all missionaries leave the field prematurely and permanently. With the added exception of inconsistent and inadequate financial support, the reasons are consistent with those of home based ministers.

While these studies cross a wide spectrum of doctrinal positions, from extremely liberal to ultra conservative, the numbers are startling.

Most Pastors don’t feel they have a safe place to go for support. To go to someone in the congregation means risking loose lips or accusations of favoritism. Going to another Pastor in the area makes them feel weak and self-conscious. And many don’t want to go back to their seminaries for help, because they feel inadequately prepared by those institutions in the first place.

Wow, that’s truly a dilemma and it makes my heart hurt. I have been in their (your?) shoes and desperately want to be a part of the solution. That’s why we’re investigating the possibility of launching a ministry to serve Pastors who are discouraged, fallen, wounded or just plain worn out, whether they’ve already decided to leave the ministry, want to stay, or are lost in the fog trying to figure out what to do.

We’ve tentatively called this effort, Barnabas, Incorporated.

We want to:

  1. Be ‘sons of encouragement’, like Barnabas; and to be like Aaron and Hur, who held up Moses hands during the battle with Amelek in Exodus 17
  2. Assist Pastors in creating an action plan for their lives, whether staying in full time service or transitioning to secular work
  3. Work with active Pastors to help them with things like time and life management to be more effective in the ministry and bring back the joy they first felt in service
  4. Help those who’ve already left ministry to find a new direction and work they find fulfilling and profitable
  5. Enable congregations to improve their hiring and interview procedures to make better decisions for themselves and the Church staff
  6. Promote ways for congregations to support and encourage their Pastors and to create realistic sets of expectations
  7. Encourage Missionaries on the field and assist those recently returned, to reintegrate into American life and to find the work/ministry they truly love.
  8. Consult with Colleges, Seminaries, Universities and Denominational Oversight Groups on ways to be more effective in preparing, equipping and supporting Pastors and Missionaries

I’ve been researching and seriously praying about this for a month. Here’s where you come in. I want and need to hear from you as to whether or not you believe this would be a valuable ministry and one you could support (I’m not asking for a commitment or donation, just your input). Please add your comments or send an email to samburtonpresents@gmail.com.

One other thing I would ask of you, especially if you think this idea would be a valuable ministry to the Kingdom; Please share this, forward it, like it, and help me get the work out across the country and around the world. I want to get the pulse of the Church quickly and create an action plan if the feedback is ‘GO!’. Thanks so much. As always, you rock!

11 thoughts on “If A Pastor Breaks In The Forest, Does Anyone Hear Him Weep?

  1. I think it’s incredibly valuable having been on the side of the pastor’s wife. I understand the frustration, burnout, exhaustion, and expectations that come with the job and the marriage and I can say that if a ministry like this one had been available to us twelve years ago we might very well still be in full-time ministry. I say, GO!

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  2. I am a pastor’s wife. My husband was the youth minster when we got married; shortly after he moved to lead pastor. It is one of the most amazing, frustrating, fun, angering and joyful jobs. I have a similar passion for pastor’s wives. I believe the key to a pastor’s ministry is his wife. That is a HUGE burden to bare. I have made many mistakes as the “pastor’s wife” and would love to reach out to other wives so we can uplift and support each other. Hopefully it would make us stronger and inturn make our husband’s ministry stronger.

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  3. Hi Sam, I believe this can be a critical tool for the success of pastors everywhere? I guess you know I am absolutely one of those questioning my role in ministry. While I believe with all my heart the call to ministry is irrevocable, I still have a hard time finding where I fit into the big picture if you will? There was a time in the recent past when I felt the Holy Spirit leading me in ministry, only to have a great deal of hurt occur in my life in ministry. Anyway without getting into too much detail here Sam, I do think this can be extremely helpful. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help?

    Truly in Christ,
    Bobby Nuñez

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  4. Sam- you were the first person I turned to (besides Jesus and Bruce) when I felt totally broken from the church. Yes- do it! There is nothing out there for them- “them” makes me sad still. Wish it was still “us” ! Sigh….still hurts but God is great anyway!

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