11 Reasons Some Pastors Leave a Church Too Soon

Last week, I posted two posts about pastors staying too long in a church (here and here). Today, I want to address the other side of the coin—pastors who leave a church too soon. In this case, I refer to anecdotal evidence gathered through the years by talking with pastors who themselves say they left a church too soon. Few pastors I know leave a church saying, “I know this is too early, but I’m leaving”; instead, they reach that conclusion after the fact.  

  1. They assumed that the conflict in their church would never end. That’s all they could see ahead of them, and thus they had lost their hope for change. Discouragement won the day. 
  2. They never intended to stay long at the church in the first place. They were honest enough to admit that they saw the church as a stepping stone to another ministry, but still they let that goal lead them to leave too early. 
  3. They let their ego lead them to the bigger church. It was just too attractive and alluring to lead the bigger church that everybody else knew was bigger. It was just a wrong move.
  4. They believed a move to a denominational position would give them more influence and fewer conflicts. The move made sense at the time, but they soon learned that some shepherds serving in denominational roles struggle with not leading a church. 
  5. They left without praying much about the move. In fact, they had not been reading the Word or praying much at all—and their prayer about the move was more “emergency” praying to make a decision than it was part of their spiritual DNA. 
  6. They listened to others and ignored their “gut.” Externally, mentors and others recommended the move. Internally, the pastors knew better – but they didn’t listen to their own heart. 
  7. They didn’t shepherd their family well in a difficult church. Their family struggled during the previous ministry, and leaving made the most sense. Now, some pastors wonder if things would have been different had they cared better for their family rather than giving all their attention to the church. 
  8. They burned out because they weren’t taking care of themselves. That is, they didn’t care for their soul through spiritual disciplines, and they didn’t care for their body through exercise. Years later, they’ve now learned the value—and necessity—of both. 
  9. They were lonely, and they blamed the church. Some churches are, in fact, unfriendly to pastors. In these cases, though, pastors confess that they withdrew into isolation too much rather than seek friendships. 
  10. They didn’t know what to do next—and were unwilling to ask for help. They hit a leadership lid or exhausted their vision, but they sought no outside mentoring or guidance. Instead, they moved to a new church they thought they could handle. 
  11. They responded to a sense of “push” without a strong sense of “pull.” That is, they increasingly knew the Lord was moving them away from their ministry, but they wrongly—and prayerlessly—assumed the first opportunity was the right one.

Pastors, if you think you left a ministry too soon, tell us your reasons for doing so. 

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