Why Young Pastors Leave The Ministry

A recent blog on Nakedreligion.com listed the top ten reasons young pastors leave the ministry. Although it's mostly intended as humorous, there are some pretty interesting things mentioned here. The tenure of a young pastor is around the same amount of time one could expect Liz Taylor to stay married... not good. This list explains why:

1. The discontinuity between what they imagined ministry to be and what it actually is is too great.
2. A life without weekends sucks.

3. The pay is too low (most pastors in my denomination make less money than a school teacher with five years experience).

4. They are tired of driving ten year old cars while their congregations trade in their cars every two years.

5. Many young pastors are called into difficult congregations that chew pastors up and spit them out because experienced pastors know better.

6. Even though the search committee told them they wanted to reach young people, they didn’t really mean it.

7. When the pastor asked the search committee if they were an “emergent church”, the members of the search committee thought he said “divergent church” and agreed.

8. Nobody told the young pastor that cleaning the toilets was part of the job description.

9. The young pastor’s student loans came due and the amount of money he/she owes on a monthly basis exceeds his/her income.

10. Working at McDonalds has alot less stress.

Although some of these are obviously intended as purely humorous, and there are other issues in play here such as the honesty and integrity of churches during the search process, it seems the majority of problems we face as young pastors stem from a lack of proper perspective. From my limited experience, the solution seems to be in the training and relationships pursued by young pastors.

First, the pastor needs to be prepared for ministry on the front end. Frankly, seminaries are not doing this well. The vast majority of seminaries with which I am familiar do a great job of churning out biblical scholars, but there is a huge disconnect between someone who can explain a passage and someone who can wisely apply it to leadership in a church. The value of internships, and apprentice-type learning environments should not be underestimated in the training of young pastors. These situations give the pastors a laboratory to experiment and fail with some type of safety net in play. Frankly, I wouldn't hire a pastor who hadn't served in some type of formal ministry training that included a prolonged internship; the risk is too high.

Secondly, young pastors must be connected to older pastors who can serve to help buoy a pastor through the inevitable messes he finds within the church. These relationships don't need to be formal, but they need to be existent. I thank God on a regular basis for the 3 men in my life who currently pastor churches, and have served as mentors to me during my various involvements in ministry. Their perspective, input, advice, and wisdom have kept me out of several messes, and have encouraged me through some extremely difficult times.

The NakedReligion Blog is right: McDonalds would be less stress, but the rewards of offering someone the opportunity to Super-size their value combo doesn't compare to the reward of being used by God in changing lives.

If you've got a young pastor, it might be worth encouraging him to pursue some of these relationships. Who knows? You might end up saving your pastor.