There is a lot of conversation about pastors dropping out of ministry or, at the very least, leaving their current churches. Yes, there are good reasons for these conversations. Among the reasons is the toll COVID has taken on these leaders and their churches.
But I have been hearing from pastors who are determined to stay at their current churches. In fact, some are more determined than ever to stay right where they are.
Here are the six most common reasons we are hearing from pastors.
1. The pastors are called to their churches. This reason was the dominant explanation we received. God has not released these pastors from where they are currently serving. In many cases, they have sensed an even greater affirmation from God to remain at their churches.
2. Their families love their churches and their communities. Most pastors have families. Their spouses and their children are not only happy where they are, but many are also making a gospel difference in their churches and their communities. In many ways, their call to stay is as firm as the pastors' call.
3. The pastors love their communities. A call to serve in a local church does indeed begin with the congregation itself. But a call is also a call to live in, serve and evangelize the communities to which they belong. The communities become the sticky factor for many pastors.
4. The pastors don't have a stepping-stone mentality. More than any point in my lifetime, I see the fading of the greener-grass syndrome among pastors. Bigger is not necessarily better. And though the possible extra income and staffing could provide relief from their current situations, these reasons are not sufficiently compelling for pastors to leave the churches they serve.
5. Many of the pastors have great relationships in the church. One pastor told us his friendships in the church were the closest he has had in his life. Another pastor shared that many of his church members pray for him daily. He could not imagine leaving the prayer coverage provided by these members.
6. Sometimes, the pastors have no credible alternatives. This reason is not as positive as the others, but it is a reality for many pastors. They have no other churches inquiring about them. Or their training is totally in vocational ministry, and they have no other marketable skillset. At least they perceive that they could not do other vocation.
To be clear, we still see the next few years as a time of heavy turnover among pastors. But we also wanted to be clear that not all pastors are looking to leave.
Many are indeed more determined than ever to stay.
Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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