Here is an article that really does belong in the category of Ministry Opportunities!
Let me share why it is that I am so keenly interested in pastor burnout and pastors leaving ministry. In fact, my concern for pastors prompted me to launch my website. My website ministry began out of my concern for exiting pastors who are usually described as having “left the ministry”. Here is a bold statement: I think it nearly impossible for a faithful servant of God to leave the ministry! Leaving a ministry assignment is not the same as turning away from one’s faith, but many seem to think it is. It is interesting to me that the search engine keywords most consistently used bringing visitors to my website are “pastoral burnout” and “leaving the ministry”.
What is amazing is that the number one search engine entry bringing people to my ministry focused website continues to be “pastor appreciation poems”! And again this month, it is leading the way as the entry point into this site. I am still trying to figure out exactly what this means, except to say that those wanting to express appreciation to their pastor do not have a clue that he or she is ready to throw in the towel. My guess is that it will take a heap of pastor appreciation poetry to alleviate feelings a pastor has to the contrary.
Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries in an article entitled article, “Strike the Shepherd” reports that every month (at the time this article was written), 1,500 pastors in the USA leave their assignments because of conflict, burnout or moral failure.
I would imagine this same pastoral exodus to be true worldwide simply because people are people. Sande states that one study showed that the average seminary graduate spends only 14 years pastoring before changing careers. Now, while it is a tragedy when pastors leave ministry because of moral failure,
I do question the entire concept of “leaving the ministry” as always being negative. In fact, just as some of the greatest companies and corporations came about in response to a pink slip, I honestly feel that some of the greatest ministry will be initiated following pastoral burnout or being forced out.
For example, The great Christian humanitarian ministry “World Vision” came about because the founder was rejected as a missionary candidate by his denomination. The truth is that most of us in ministry serve an organization that had its beginnings in someone being rejected or forced out somewhere along the line.
As I said in a previous article, the Apostle Paul often decided to go to the next town in his missionary journeys because he was “forced out”. His concept of the leadership of God was that he would wake up lying on the ground, there were stones all around him, and his body hurt like crazy! It was at that moment he decided to go to the next ministry assignment.
I call for a whole new framework for understanding ministry, suggesting we reframe “expanding the ministry”. Of course, if it is the ministry of the Apostle Paul that sets the pattern for understanding ministry, that would be a whole “old” framework!
No one likes to be hurt or forced out, but maybe we need to be more like the Apostle Paul when being run out of town. It was probably the only way God could get his attention to move on to his next ministry assignment. That has been true for me as well. So don’t be surprised if it is in a whole new career setting but ministry just the same. To see ministry in this light is the ultimate “change career with purpose” strategy.
Onward with purpose,
Chaplain Paul Slater