Over the past several years, I’ve kept an anecdotal record of reasons pastors tell me they’re thinking about stepping out of a senior pastor role. Here are the most common reasons I’ve heard, in no order of priority:
- “I’m tired of the conflict.” Some churches are tougher than others to lead, and the conflict gets tiresome.
- “I don’t know what else to do.” Sometimes this reason is simply an honest admission: the task feels bigger than the leader feels capable.
- “It’s hurting my family.” It’s difficult to stay focused and energetic when your family is struggling.
- “We can’t pay our bills.” Some churches simply don’t pay a livable wage for pastors.
- “I’m not sure I’m called to this role.” I’ve talked with leaders in tough situations and leaders in good situations who feel this way.
- “I’m burned out.” It happens to even the best senior pastors. Growing stress creates ongoing weariness.
- “I don’t like preaching week-to-week.” Often, these leaders are shepherding churches that require preparing multiple sermons per week.
- “I can’t live up to their expectations.” When you know you’ll never meet what the church demands, you’re defeated from the beginning.
- “We’re lonely.” It’s sad, but some congregations don’t love their pastor well.
- “I’ve lost my vision for the church.” No vision generally equals no future focus—and little interest in investing in this church.
- “I’d rather be an associate pastor.” I hear this reason from young pastors more than older ones. At times, they feel overwhelmed by the work of the senior role.
- “I’m tired of bad situations.” Usually, this reason comes from pastors who’ve endured more than one difficult ministry—perhaps, I suspect, of their own making at times.
In many cases, the pastors who express these concerns don't actually quit–but they at least think about it. What reasons would you add to this list?