And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Counseling Those Ministers Who are Ready to Quit pt 1

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at


Each month over 1,500 ministers leave the ministry permanently.[1]  This is an alarming crisis within the church.  For every minister who leaves the call, dozens are in the process of deciding whether or not they will stay on as a shepherd.  Scores are ministering, but not with a fervent heart of worship.  A quick survey of the Bible will find several who despaired at times in ministry: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elisha, and even Paul to name a few.

The purpose of this paper is to find biblical hope.  Though the topic needs exhaustive attention, in these pages an attempt will be made to define the struggles, and highlight the hope that should be given to ministers in such circumstances, as well as provide a basis for further and future study.

Problems Faced by Ministers

Listen to any pastor’s fellowship meeting, and you will hear the burdened heart of many ministers.  By browsing the internet one can find the survey results from a variety of institutions as to ministry satisfaction.  To put a more personal and practical side to this research, several pastors were interviewed as to the times in their ministry when they actually considered quitting.[2]  These inquiries back up what is shown in the research studies and conversations regarding ministry satisfaction and exodus from the pulpit.  In the course of my research, several themes emerged as symptoms of ministerial despair. 

A 1991 survey of pastors by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth found,

90% work more than 46 hours a week.
80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively.
75% reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry.
70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.[3]

Another statistic should be bore in mind, it is estimated that 20 percent of long-term clergy suffer from long-term stress.  One year the Southern Baptist Convention paid $64 million in stress-related claims, only being outdone by maternity expenses.[4]

The Schaeffer Institute reports, “We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry.”[5]  The Institute reports in the same article that 35 to 40 percent of pastors actually do leave the ministry with most of these before the five-year mark.  This is a far cry from the joy we find in the apostle Paul when he writes about ministry from prison to the Philippians.

Richard Krejcir reports that as recent as 2006, 948 pastors of 1,050 surveyed stated that they are “frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly basis,” 75 percent alluded that they “felt dishearten in their ability to pastor, and 802, or 71 percent, stated they “were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.”[6]

The converse of this is equally sad. The same research found only “two hundred and forty one, or twenty three percent of the pastors were happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!”[7]  The fallout of this crisis is staggering.  As previously stated, over 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month.  At any given moment, 80 percent of pastors consider themselves discouraged and 50 percent of men would leave the ministry if possible, but are constrained financially from doing so.[8]

Summing up several of these conditions, Jim Fuller compiled a list of ten factors why pastors leave the high calling.[9]  This list includes lack of vision, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, stress and burnout, not appreciated, inability to be real, having to be the most spiritual, stress on the family and health, feeling all alone, lack of denominational support, and ministers have a vision, the church doesn’t.  His conclusions reveal a cultural influence upon the labels of pastoral failure.  This in itself may be part of the problem of overcoming ministry atrophy; too often people think of and evaluate the minister’s position in terms of business and self-establishment rather than a surrender of the self, bearing the cross, and following Jesus.

[1]Don Gray, Jr., “1,500 Pastors Leave the Ministry Each Month,” Associated Content [on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from
article/2495597/1500_pastors_leave_the_ministry_each_month; Internet.
[2]At present, I have interviewed over 11 ministers as to their struggles and triumphs in ministry.  These interviews are not published.
[3]Fuller Institute of Church Growth, “1991 Survey of Pastors” quoted by Small, “Some Interesting Statistics” [on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from; Internet.
[4]Current Thoughts and Trends, December 1992, quoted by Small, “Some Interesting Statistics.”
[5]Richard Krejcir, “What is Going on with the Pastors in America?” Into Thy Word Ministries [on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from
apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562; Internet.
[9]Jim Fuller, “10 Reasons Why Pastors Leave the Ministry,” Pastoral Care Inc.
[on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from
Books?eBooks.php; Internet.

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