9 Reasons Some Pastors Stay Too Long

Yesterday, I posted on “Indications that a Pastor Has Stayed Too Long,” with particular attention on leadership of declining churches. Today, here are my thoughts about why some pastors stay too long.   

  1. They don’t want to end a ministry on a negative note. Nobody does. Thus, they hang on, hoping that the next evangelistic program or the next new member will finally make the difference.  
  1. They don’t sense a strong calling to leave. At least, that is, they don’t feel the same kind of pull that brought them to this current position in the first place. They’re waiting for clearance from God to leave.  
  1. They genuinely believe that God still wants to use them to turn the church around. They believe that God called them there, and they’re willing to press forward in the midst of decline and still trust that God has plans for them with that congregation.  
  1. They’ve grown comfortable with the position. Even if they don’t like the fact that the church is not growing, they’ve grown content with the work. And, because most churches don’t cut a salary, they’ve grown accustomed to their salary even while the church is in decline.  
  1. Their family is fully settled in the area. In some cases, their spouse has a more secure job with better benefits than they have. Their kids feel at home in the area. To think about leaving now would be too disruptive.  
  1. They have no one to speak truth to them. They serve alone, or they have no friends whose voices they hear well. When you serve by yourself, both staying in a hard situation or leaving when things aren’t going well can be difficult.    
  1. Their church has no system in place to evaluate their ministry regularly. Thus, the church has quietly tolerated its leadership and decline, and no one feels the right to speak up about any concerns.  
  1. Their church is large enough to decline slowly. Sometimes, the church has enough attenders that any slow decline is hardly noticeable. My experience is that pastors, however, most often know the reality of the situation – and some still choose to stay for any of the reasons listed here.  
  1. They’re simply waiting for another church to call them. They’ve sent their resumes, and they’ve notified everybody they know about their availability. As soon as the door opens elsewhere, they’re gone – but they’re still serving where they currently are in the meantime.  

What would you add to this list?   


  • Mark says:

    Sometimes he is there for a few powerful people or families who do not want him to leave or retire. I use “he/him” because very few women have been in the pastorate for a long enough time to be considered as having stayed too long.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Mark. 

    • Nathram says:

      A pastor I know stayed because of money, his wife influenced him to stay, he also stayed at that church to block another pastor from continuing the ministry at that church, although the church was suffering for more many years

  • Curt says:

    I call it “The Emperor’s New Clothes” logical fallacy (after the Hans Christian Anderson fable). Out of a fear of appearing incompetent,  they pretend to be able to do something that they should be able to do, but cannot.

    In the case of a pastor, to be able to lead a church to make disciples of Jesus who are conformed to His image and can make more disciples of Him (The Great Commission).

    The irony and lesson of the fable is that by pretending to be able to do something simply out of a fear of appearing incompetent, they actually prove themselves to be incompetent.

    And to admit failure would be to admit incompetence; which very few people will actually do. Instead, they continue on, pretending that they can see the Emperor’s new clothes.

    But the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

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