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Leaving the Ministry. Left the Ministry. Polls, Statistics and other Data

Ministry. Polls, Statistics and other Data

A google search for

  • “leaving the ministry” (exact match) turns up 14 million hits

  • “left the ministry” (exact match) turns up 18 million hits

Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year. (thatʼs over 20,000 last year alone).
Faces of Pastors Who Have Left “The Ministry”.

1,500 Pastors Leave the Ministry Each Month Published December 16, 2009 by Pastor Don Gray Jr.
On average 1,500 pastors walk out of the pulpit each and every month. Of those who remain, 50% are so discouraged that if they could afford to, would leave the ministry now. Depression plagues 70% of our pastors and over half of their marriages will end in divorce. (source; Maranatha Ministries Life line for Pastors)… According to the above mentioned source, 90% of the pastors surveyed stated that they were overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the position and 80% of those who had attended seminary stated that they were ill prepared for the pastorate.

20,000 Pastors Left the Ministry in 2008. Are you next? 50% of ministers just starting out this year will not last 5 years in the ministry. I can honestly tell you that in my 22 years of full time Christian service, Iʼve thought of quitting more than a dozen times. And I know that Iʼm not alone. Studies by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. reveal that:

  • 90% feel that they are inadequately trained for the demands of church ministry.

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

  • 70% say that they have a lower self-image now than when they first started in the ministry.

Do you feel the same way? Inadequate? Stressed? Insecure?

The #1 reason why pastors leave the ministry? Church members are not willing to go in the same direction and work towards the same goal as their pastoral leader. They are unwilling to change and refuse to follow their churchʼs leadership.

Leading a church is one of the hardest jobs in the world. For most pastors:

  • the pay is inadequate

  • the job is stressful and

  • the demands are unreasonable.

Source: 20,000 Pastors Left the Ministry in 2008! Are you next?

Book Review: Pastors in Transition: Why Clergy Leave Local Church Ministry. By Dean B. Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger (Eerdmans) This article appeared in The Christian Century, (December, 13, 2005, pp. 33-35.) Why do pastors leave the ministry? Several common issues emerge from the research of Dean Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger: preference for another form of ministry, the need to care for children or family, conflict in the congregation, conflict with denominational leaders, burnout or discouragement, sexual misconduct, and divorce or marital problems. Of these factors, which form the basis for the central chapters of Pastors in Transition, two are especially important: conflict and a preference for specialized ministry. A close third is the experience of burnout, discouragement, stress and overwork.
Source: Why Pastors Leave Parish Ministry


  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastorʼs children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.

  • 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.

  • 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

  • 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.

  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors.

  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

  • 33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.

  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

  • 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

  • 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastorʼs ministry.

  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.

  • 80% spouses feel left out and underappreciated by church members.

  • 80% of pastorsʼ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.

  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves. Moral values of a Christian is no different than those who consider themselves as non-Christians. The average American will tell 23 lies a day.

  • The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.

  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.

  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.

  • Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.

  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.

  • Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.

#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastorʼs believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.

“How do you know if youʼre called? Itʼs a tough question. I remember well a spiritual mentor trying to convince me not to enter the pre-seminary program in college, believing that if he could dissuade me, I would not be truly “called.” I also know of many others who have been encouraged, nudged, or even pushed into the ministry against their wishes. An acquaintance was told by family members since his earliest remembrance that he was destined for great things in the ministry, following as he would in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both well-known preachers and authors. The poor fellow was trapped. He left the ministry a broken man only a couple of years after seminary, unable to handle the pressures in large part because he was overwhelmed by doubts about his calling.”
Source: Called to the Ministry?

Emotionally leaving the ministry
By Brother Greg
As someone who also left the ministry some 27 years ago, even after all these years, I still am haunted by my experiences with it. When I look back on how I first got wrapped up in a fundamentalist form of Christianity, it began with a religious experience I had during a weekend Christian “retreat” for high school students…

I received this email today. It is from a former pastor of 20 years who left the ministry in 2000. He is now an agnostic. I recently heard a statistic which says that 80% of those who are in seminary will no longer be in ministry within five years!

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