WHY MINISTERS QUIT

It happened again this past week. Another minister has left the ministry. When I asked him why, his explanation was simply, “I’m just burned out.”

In an article I read recently by Dan Chun, he tells about Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, who said, “the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are the president of the United States, a university president, a CEO of a hospital and … a pastor/minister.”

Latest statistics from the book, “Pastors At Greater Risk” by H.B London Jr. and Neil Wiseman,” say that ministers don’t make it to retirement because they are either burned out, fired, have a moral breakdown or just quit. Here are some of the statistics

  • 80 percent of ministers say they have insufficient time with their spouse and that ministry has a negative effect on their family.
  • 40 percent report a serious conflict with a parishioner once a month.
  • 33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 58 percent of ministers indicate that their spouse needs to work either part time or full time to supplement the family income.
  • 45 percent of ministers’ wives say the greatest danger to them and family is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual burnout.
  • 21 percent of ministers’ wives want more privacy.
  • Ministers who work fewer than 50 hours a week are 35 percent more likely to be terminated.
  • 40 percent of ministers have considered leaving the ministry in the past three months.

Chun says, “Church members expect their minister to be on call seven days a week; few churches give their minister two full days off. They work on holidays — Christmas Eve, Easter and Thanksgiving — and never have a three-day weekend. People expect them to have perfect marriages and kids and drive cars and live in homes that are acceptable.”

My point is not to point fingers at churches, but to say, “What can we do to reverse the statistics?” We’re losing too many good quality ministers.

Here are a few questions for those who are not in ministry …

  1. Do these statistics surprise you?
  2. If you’re not in ministry, would you take a job that had statistics like those above?
  3. What can be done to reverse some of the above statistics?

I’d also love to hear from those who are in ministry …

  1. Do these statistics surprise you?
  2. What is the most difficult part of ministry for you?
  3. What things would you like to see churches do for the benefits of those in ministry?
  4. What does your church do for you that helps to ease some of the stress from your ministry?

Click here to read some things you can do to encourage your minister. Click here to read some things you can do to make your minister want to quit.

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
48 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Matt H. says:

    What an honor that you mentioned my little blog to everyone. Thanks!
    I have really enjoyed doing it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    scary but true

    btw–you might want to be more specific about which words are yours and which are quotes. I know you didn’t mean to but it looks like you plagiarized the article you quoted.

    of course, this is from the guy who put one of your articles in our church bulletin without giving you credit
    :)
    brian

  3. TREY MORGAN says:

    Thanks Brian. I left out set of “quotes” and I put in some italics to help. I think it’s a little clearer now.

    So Brian… did you answer any of the questions? I’d love your opinion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    you mean it wasn’t enough to just start out monday morning by criticizing??

    oh yeah. I can relate personally and from talking to other ministers. Satan is alive and well. The “system” (american church culture/tradition) is flawed, the Bible says so much about suffering but it is sometime hard to do accept it from the brethren.

    my congregation isn’t hyper-critical, and doesn’t put ridiculous expectations on me. so I am blessed.

    I am going to talk about money, even though, any time a preacher talks about money he will appear to be greedy or materialistic (which is part of the problem).
    churches who don’t withhold for taxes or provide insurance or retirement really don’t realize how much a difference that makes.

    providing a house is great, and they see that as taking care. I think I heard/read a study that says taxes/insurance/retirement is about 15%-20%. so a salary of $40,000 with a house looks nice but really isn’t.
    people who “take home” $40,000 get an extra 30% in the benefits and taxes.

    just some ramblings

    brian

  5. Anonymous says:

    one more thought that might be a little more coherent and at least biblical…

    RE: flawed system
    Jesus blessed his church with different gifts, different roles, different leaders. one of the main causes of burnout is that too many churches expect the preacher to fill every role. that isn’t biblical but we go along because that is the system

    brian

  6. TREY MORGAN says:

    Brian, I always value your opinion. You always have good wisdom to add. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  7. AncientWanderer says:

    Hello My Name Is Don & I Am In Ministry- {hello don}

    I’m sorry. I understand it’s hard but so is life.
    Before I began preaching I worked in a family owned business. We worked 50-60 hours a week. We never shut up about work even at home or on holidays. Most of the longer “vacations” I went on were conferences or conventions or seminars. The job was service related so EVERYDAY I had some body griping about not being satisfied with my work….
    Just some perspective.

    As for ministers, you know my opinion but to answer your question:

    [1] Do These Stats Surprise
    (a)It ain’t for the weak
    hearted
    (b) God didn’t tell any of us to
    have a family to preach
    (c) But the stats don’t surprise me because not even ministers of the Gospel are immune to “victim” mentality.

    [2] Difficult Part Of Ministry?
    (a) Other preachers who do what I do and still find time to Nit-Pick (sorry bb but the plagiarism thing was over the top ;).
    (b) Other preachers who assume I neglect my family.
    (c) Ministry “part-timers”
    (d) Actually my worst moments in ministry have come from other Preachers and a few “”elders””.

    [3] Church Do For Me?
    (a) Nothing. God called me to minister to them. What happened to “those who are first will be last” and “didn’t come to be served but serve”… have all those Wanta-Preachers (Professors) in the Universities taken that part out of their syllabuses?

    [4] What do they do for me?
    (a) Respect my position. authority/calling.

    Now, could the Lord’s church have some kind of universal health care or retirement program that is transferable from congregation to congregation? Sure. But that will happen when being white and owning your own business stops being the real reason elders are elected for life. ((oooops)) See bb we all stumble 😉

    I have a question for the preachers- “Are any of you really neglecting your families or have you just been told you are by other preachers because you are serving God too much?”

  8. Falantedios says:

    And for some reason, I still pray for the opportunity to minister full-time.

    Nick

  9. TREY MORGAN says:

    Don, I’m glad you kicked in your two cents worth. I know these stats are just that, stats. It doesn’t represent every situation or every minister. I’m comfortable making the same comment that Brian did, “I’m too am very blessed to be where I am.” I don’t feel the pressure on all these things that other do. But I do know the pressure is there for many. And while it’s not my job to “complain” for the preacher’s sake, I do think there are some valid arguments about why preachers burn out and what we can do to stop it.

    I know I love what I do. I would be heartbroken if I thought I wouldn’t get to continue in ministry. I love it enough that I’d do if for free if I could, but don’t tell my elders that :)

    Nick – Your desire to be in full time ministry is awesome. Continue to strive for that, but remember at the same time, you don’t have to be in “full time ministry” to do “ministry full time.”

  10. Anonymous says:

    Don
    i hope you weren’t neglecting your family by typing that comment.

    😉

    blogger boy

  11. Anonymous says:

    Trey,

    Thanks for including the link to “the rest of the story,” literally. I liked the way you still included the key points and attribution so that those who didn’t take your “hot link” hint, still got that info.

    I’m sure you remember, but when the Winkler tragedy began playing out in the media, one of the emerging brotherhood issues was the topic of stress placed on ministers’ wives.

    Here’s a useful link http://www.acu.edu/ministry/support_network/index.html

    Without sectarian hierarchy (and their associated resources), it seems to me that individual churches of Christ (and their ministers/wives) are even more vulnerable to stresses than the occupational norm outlined in the article you cited in your blog.

    Mike

  12. lisa says:

    I think I’m just gonna let you ministers duke it out amongst yourselves. (o;

    I admire all of you for following a calling from God to bring the Gospel to the lost.

  13. Falantedios says:

    Dear Don, and fellow bloggers,

    I’m pretty sure that Scripture encourages ministers to expect better treatment from fellow Christians, family members with us in God’s family, than from unbelieving patrons in the service industry. I work in food service, and I expect my fellow Christians to treat our servants better than the average server gets treated in a restaurant. However, considering the horror stories that I could tell about “Christian” patrons, I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

    Strangely, even the one who came “not to serve, but to be served” still chastised his friends for not watching and praying with him.

    What if the hand told the rest of the body, “I don’t want anything from you… I’m here to serve you… you’re not here to serve me…”? Gangrene and amputation would soon result.

    If the body is not adequately sharing its resources aomng its different members, Paul would call that a disease, rather than scolding the hand for expecting nourishment.

    Thanks, Trey, for this information and encouragement and the reminder is well-appreciated. Sometimes I do like being able to minister this way, precisely because of the stresses you listed. But the body generally ignores its “vocational ministers” so that would prbably be my biggest frustration. Many people assume that because you’re not getting paid that you aren’t doing anything, either.

    in HIS love,
    Nick

  14. TREY MORGAN says:

    Lisa – as a preacher’s daughter I thought you’d give us some insight on this?

    Mike – thanks for the link. I think it will be a good reference link. Let me add … Does anybody know of any good books on the subject?

    Nick – Excellent points. Thanks for your comments. And I can understand your frustrations on “vocational ministeries.”

  15. AncientWanderer says:

    Nick-
    Howdy,

    I don’t agree that “gangrene” would set in but I can tell you from experience and this post that if the hand sits around worrying what the foot has done for him lately…. then he will eventually quit being a hand or “get” carpal tunnel and leave.

    Whenever I’m in one of those “Garden” moments then the brethren have been there for me. But I’m pretty sure that was the only “Garden” moment for Jesus through His entire ministry. The problem is too many Preachers are having “woe is me” moments every week.

    And if you read M/M/L account of the Garden you will see why Jesus wanted them to “stay awake”. It wasn’t for HIM it was for them. All three record Jesus say, “‘Why are you sleeping?’ He asked them. ‘Get up and pray SO THAT YOU WILL NOT FALL INTO TEMPTATION.'” {emphasis added}. Even in the Garden Jesus worried about ABOUT their spiritual health.

    I try not to put words into Paul’s mouth.

    I think the point to 1 Cor 12 is just the opposite of how you are using it. Re-read the passage and you will see that Paul specifically says there are those in the body (not the weaker or less honorable) who are there to serve. Look at verse 24- our more presentable parts don’t require special treatment.

    My point is that somewhere in the ministry in the last 20 years it was decided that the congregation is supposed to do as much for the minister as he does for them. I don’t care what hermeneutic you use Jesus said, [Mark 10:45] “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    This BTW was told to the disciples once again after a series of who is first and who is last and who is greatest and who gets what from whom griping that they were involved in. The fact that “MINISTERS” are even talking so much about their lack of parity should in itself be a clue that we have gone awry.

    Do the brethren need to grow up? Yeah. But then they are always going to need that and God has established “Preachers” for that job. Even congregations with elderships hire preachers to feed the flock!

    I say again- is the stress for a preacher great- YES, a thousand times yes. And I agree with Mike that we in the Lord’s church have it even harder than other “preachers”. But ((again) IT IS NOT FOR THE WEAK at: heart, head, soul, body or spirit!!

  16. lisa says:

    Nah, I like to avoid conflict when possible. I’m a peacemaker.

    But I will say this … Don hasn’t said anything yet that I disagree with. You guys keep hammering at him and we’ll see if he eventually does. (o;

    I am not a paid minister (ha), but I do however get involved more than your average member (maybe not your average member reading Trey’s blog, but overall). I know what frustration with the Lord’s church is. It might be different from a lay-person’s point of view than from a paid minister’s. I suppose I’m still young, but I haven’t given up yet. I guess I wonder if someone who does leave a ministry position should have been there in the first place.

    Yikes, I’m going to get in trouble for that, aren’t I?

    FYI, I do not know anyone personally who has quit the ministry — so, please, no one take my opinion personally!!

  17. TREY MORGAN says:

    Lisa – This is peaceful. And I’m with you on peace making. I’m not a “conflict” kind of person. And, I’m not trying to hammer Don or even hammer at him.

    My question to you might should have been more direct. Sorry. I was wondering, since you grew up in ministry, if you’d address the statistics as a preacher’s daughter. Did you feel that ministry was hazardous to your family when you were growing up? Did it cause more stress on you as a family than it would have if your dad hadn’t been in ministry? That’s what I was hoping you’d answer.

    I think my kids haven’t felt any pressures of ministry. And I don’t think they’ve felt any “expectations” of how they are supposed to act … just because they are a preacher’s kid. But, maybe I should ask them just in case.

  18. Falantedios says:

    Don,

    If the hand does not receive blood and food, gangrene will not set in?

    The minister is not a special class of person, nor is he an employee. The minister should be treated with the same love and compassion with which the members expect to be treated.

    Strange, it seems that Luke depicts Jesus having a group of followers who helped take care of his needs. And who gets to decide which parts are “more presentable”? We’re not asking for “special treatment” for ministers. We’re asking for the same treatment that every Christian deserves from the people of God.

    Where are all these preachers having “woe is me” moments every week? That is simply a “straw man” and while you may beat him to your heart’s content, it doesn’t make him any more real.

    This “shut up and bear it” concept that you are espousing has nothing to do with New Testament Christianity. In fact, it has lead to the powerful lack of intimacy in the Lord’s body. Everyone is “just fine” and no one shares their sorrows. If a minister cannot speak of his weariness and sorrow to fellow ministers, Don, to whom should he speak?

    I don’t hear anyone in this string DEMANDING to be served, but rather pointing out some ways in which the household of faith is failing to fulfill Gal 6:10. Your tacit approval of the double standards under which a preacher’s family is expected to operate (“no one told us to have a family”) are also foreign to New Testament Christianity.

    I would say more, but I’ve already hijacked Trey’s blog too much.

    in HIS love,
    Nick

  19. lisa says:

    I didn’t think ministry was hazardous to my family, no. My Dad encouraged us to know the Bible, study hard, and live a good life, but I never felt like I was expected to do it because I was the preacher’s kid. I think my parents would have had high expectations of us regardless of his being in the ministry.

    I think the 3 of us turned out pretty good too. :)

  20. TREY MORGAN says:

    Lisa – Perfect answer.

  21. Anonymous says:

    nick,
    good luck
    the rest of us are already aware of don’s understanding of the role of the minister.

    brian

  22. AncientWanderer says:

    Nick-
    I know what you are saying and I ….well. I have weird views on whether or not a preach is a “member” of the local congregation. But I’ve voiced those before.

    I was only talking about Trey’s post. You have moved from Trey giving statistics on how some Preachers and their wives “FEEL” to starving and torturing ministers of the Gospel.
    I don’t see:
    “insufficient time with spouse”
    “conflict”
    “dealing with stress”
    “burn-out”
    “privacy”
    …….issues falling under, what did you call it, violating Galatians 6.10. Misusing Galatians 6.10 that way would have us support Denominational preachers as well as Ministers of the Gospel. (But I digress into exegesis.)

    Trust me I don’t take it and that is why I get treated as a brother in Christ.

    I love when “burning men” throw out the old tired “straw man” argument.
    Tell me Nick what do you classify- “If the hand does not receive blood and food, gangrene will not set in?” as? Hyperbole?

    You went from “stress” to “starvation”. Some who are inclined to bloviation might even call that statement of yours a “straw man” statement.

    OK once the best any one can do is “straw man” well…

  23. Anonymous says:

    Don, are you having fun?

    Trey, I must say I see several perspectives with these stats.

    Yes, I have seen these ministers and have been there and felt that.

    Yes, I do not think that it is like that in most ministry situations and praise God that it is not.

    Yes, I think that Don is right (if I understand him) that you don’t have to neglect your family, or have excessive stress because you are a minister. I think you are not in the right situation for you and maybe you should change congregations (our case in point). Sometimes enough is enough.

    Yes, I think that some people are prone to stress, or woe is me, or … and it doesn’t matter what job they are in – they are going to find the same situations. You have to come to a point to try to not create those situations for yourself.

    Yes, our kids have had a hard time mainly because they have been the only kids their age in church on a consistent basis (except for the friends we bring) and that has put them in the spotlight. It also means that several old ladies have snagged their panty hose playing ring around the rosy and tag on the church yard.

    The most difficult part of ministry for me is feeling like I can not confide in a local friend my issues. It is also difficult seeing James carrying so much of a load. However, you learn not to make the same mistakes twice and this has been a great experience for that.

    Kathy

  24. Anonymous says:

    and some quit or are burnt out because the men’s/elders meetings are a lot like this satirical example of a town meeting:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news/
    town_hall_meeting_gives

    brian

  25. AncientWanderer says:

    Trey-
    Kathy suggested that I put myself in for the “Nice Matters” Award.
    She thought I could get some votes on your blog?

  26. Jeanne M. says:

    Lisa and her siblings turned out well – her grandmother says so. My husband was a deacon and an elder in different congregations when mine were growing up, and we never expected them to behave better because of that, but because they were God’s children. Then at 46 years of age, he decided to go to Sunset School of Preaching when they were almost grown, and Lon has served three congregations during the 26 years that followed. The students at Sunset were told by R. B. Baggett that if they could do anything else, they should do it. But if the ministry was where they really wanted to be, and they had discussed it thoroughly with their wife, then that was where they should be. We were with three different congregations and at no time was Lon told maybe he was too old. So we were blessed in that respect. He retired from full-time work at age 75, but the congregation didn’t really want him to do so. It took them over a year to find someone else, and during that time we traveled 60 miles each way almost every Sunday morning for Lon to preach. The only reason he retired was to get away from the administrative part – door opener/custodian and waiting for service personnel to show up. He still preaches any opportunity he gets.

    One thing I believe many churches do not do is to set up a business expense allowance, either separately, or from the preacher’s salary as he designates the amount. This allowance is not taxed, and although you have to spend it all, or lose what is not spent, he never had any problem spending more than was allowed, and the extra went on the Schedule C. Also at the last church, he was provided with health insurance and a life insurance policy. We lived in two preacher’s homes, and owned two homes during that 26-27 years period.

    I was blessed that I did not have to work outside the home for extra income, but I was the unpaid part-time church secretary at two of the locations, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Our children were grown by the time we started at the first congregation, but they each ended up living with us for a period of time at the first location, each bringing a mate and a dog – not at the same time.

    I am sorry that so many seem to be getting out of the ministry, but when we see what members have/own, it sometimes does get discouraging to the wives when we have to take leftovers and hand-me-downs.

    I just want to thank and ask God’s blessings for all of you in the ministry, and pray you will “hang in there” as you are so desparately needed.

    Sorry if this repears, but it didn’t seem to go through the first time.

  27. JoAnn says:

    Heads up, sweet people, that my observations are very general, and I know there are exceptions. RE: Preachers and Burnout Stats. Preacher with little time for family, serious conflict with members, a hazard to their family, have encountered stress related crisis, spouse needing to work, their wives aware of burnout and its affect on the family, their wives wanting more privacy, preachers needing to work 50 or more hrs per week {for job security} and are, to the tune of 40%, thinking of leaving. Its my observation, again, generalizing here, that what is obvious are the unrealistic expectations the preacher has of himself, and likewise, the unrealistic expectations the members have of him. That, coupled with unhealthy boundaries (exampled by the impact of time, money and emotions on the family) will most assuredly put him on the fast lane to burnout. It has always taken a special man with a special wife, to proclaim the Word, but the risks are serious. I had a preacher tell me recently had he known then what he knows now about preaching, he most likely would not have gone into the ministry. In talking with him further, it became obvious that he has/had way too much expected of him by the elders and the burden is heavy on him. Being able to set boundaries is a challenge for him, but if he isn’t willing or flat out doesn’t know how, then yep, burnout’s in his future…and soon.
    Sorry to be on a soapbox here, but I’m pretty protective of preachers and their families and its heartbreaking to see fellow members (from casual attendees to elders) take advantage of men who want to serve God in this awesome role. And then I pause and consider the fact, people can’t take advantage of us without our consent.
    Thanks, Trey, you’ve hit the hot button again! And well worth the great exchange of thought.
    Jo Ann

  28. craig hicks says:

    Trey I had no idea it was this bad. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Those are sobering statistics. Now here’s a weird thing. Today, before I read your blog and before you read my latest post I talked about why I love our ministers. Then coming to your blog it kind of freaked me out to see what you had to say. Anyway, I think you are a great minister. I think your brothers and sisters there are quite blessed to have you and your family among them. I’m glad you decided to be a preacher and not a ball player.
    craig

  29. kim says:

    wow, it looks like a lot of people had a lot to say on this one. i would just like to say that i am not at all surprised by the statistics. i think that churches expect for their minister to be the heart and soul of the church, when in fact it should be Jesus that takes that seat. i think that everyone expects for a minister to be perfect, as was mentioned. i also find that churches expect the preacher to be THE servant of the church, it seems that it’s no one else’s job to visit the elderly, the sick, and to encourage the down hearted. on the other hand, a good minister should lead their flock to greatness and not preach at them. the purpose of the church is to be a living body of christ that functions to serve one another and seek those that aren’t already a part of that body. ok, my soap box time is over.

    a word of encouragement to my favorite minsiter 😉 and all of you others out there… having time for yourself and your family is not selfish it is crucial, and “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9

  30. TREY MORGAN says:

    Kathy – Thanks for kicking in your opinion. Obviously you guys have some “ministry” experience. Thanks for sharing.

    Don – I’ll give you a vote :)

    Jeanne – You’re such a blessing. Thanks for adding your opinion. I love your thought on how to raise your kids. Let them be kids and don’t expect more out of them just because they are minister’s kids.

    Joann – Thanks for your imput. You’re not “soap boxing” around here … just stating the obvious. I too am worried about losing ministers. There are already too few and when good me get out … that bothers me.

    Craig – you make me laugh. I’m glad I’m a minister and not a ball player. I could have never made it as a ball player. My poor family would have been living in the streets and eating out of the trash cans. :)

  31. Greg says:

    It comes as no surprise that you received so many responses to this! I attended a seminar for preachers where Bill Hybels told us it only takes about 3 – 6 people to make a preacher leave a church!

    I’ve been on both sides of this equation … 7 years in a church situation that was hell and then the past 14 year, 12 of which were very, very good years. But over my 30+ years in ministry, I often thought about giving it up for something else. Just couldn’t come up with that “something else.”

    I’ll check out your “must read” blogs from your previous post, though I just wrote my friend, Dee, and told her I’ve pretty much limited my blog reading to a small, intimate community. But you got my interest up . . .

  32. Falantedios says:

    Dear Don,

    My “hand” analogy came simply from your teaching that a minister should expect nothing from the congregation where they minister. If my hand expected nothing from the rest of my body, gangrene would set in. That’s the point, and it is not straw. Your imaginary gaggle of whining preachers IS straw.

    Thank God for men and women who desire to serve God with their whole lives. I will agree with Don, though, that ministers who just quit because of stress probably were not meant to be in the service at all, because it IS a gut-wrenching and grief-filled life.

    However, do we balance out discussions like this with discussion of the rich blessings that come from being a servant of God? I believe that part of the reason we don’t have as many people who want to be ministers is because it doesn’t seem to be a vocation parents encourage their children to seek.

    in HIS love,
    Nick

  33. TREY MORGAN says:

    Kim – thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Being in ministry yourself gives you a unique perspective on this.

    Greg – thanks for your thoughts. I knew you’d “been there” and “done that.” Hybels is probably right. And thanks for allowing me to be a part of that small, intimate community.

    Nick – excellent point about the parents and kids… let’s follow up.

    ——————————–

    Here some more thoughts on this subject for those still reading the comments … I’d love to know…

    1 – If what Greg said is true, about it only taking a few to make a preacher leave, why is it that we allow the minority to influence us? For example, I had a friend who preaches in a congregation that did a “how are we doing” survey for the congregation. 99% said they loved the preacher and 1% said they thought they needed a preacher change. For weeks my friend allowed that 1% to eat at him. All he could focus on is why did they do that and not that 99% thought he was doing a good job. Is this a normal reaction for everyone?

    2. Is there anything that our colleges and preacher training schools could teach to better prepare young families for ministry?

    3. Nick said, “I believe that part of the reason we don’t have as many people who want to be ministers is because it doesn’t seem to be a vocation parents encourage their children to seek.” I do remember when parents and others encouraged their kids to be in the ministry. Why do you think this not as common any more?

  34. merry says:

    If you’ve read my comments on some of Trey’s previous posts, you might know why this is a big issue for me.

    Trey – to answer #1 of your last comment – when the few happen to be the people in the congregation with the most influence (and some of them happen to be elders and elders’ wives), it becomes a totally different scenario than just a few people in the congregation.

    Don – I have considered all of your comments and thoughts carefully. I am quite sure there are a number of preachers who expect special treatment from the congregation. I am also equally sure there are many congregations who expect the preacher to meet an impossible standard, and that will always set him up for failure.

    In regards to the need for preachers to set boundaries, I wholeheartedly agree. But for that to be effective, they need to be working with a church leadership and congregation who will respect those boundaries or they will have to move on eventually.

    I have many other thoughts, but I’m really tired of discussing them right now as I am questioned daily on my husband’s decision to leave vocational ministry, at least for the time being, and I need to be able to support him through the next few months of transition.

  35. Monalea says:

    Good Morning! Daryl has been preaching for 16 years and we have run into lots of pit falls. I think the ticket is to dwell on the good things we have encountered and put the negative behind us.

    We have seen that when we kept our focus on the negative problems in the ministry we became critical and negative ourselves; but when we focus on all the great blessings we tend to be more positive, upbeat and better workers for Christ.

    I guess to sum it all up; it is the Lord we are serving and not man.

    The Lord is def, def, definitely easier to work for!

    Monalea

  36. lisa says:

    I did think of something else I wanted to add, in response to several comments. It keeps coming up that preachers have to lay down some boundaries. This would be difficult for me, because of my personality, and perhaps this is something men considering the ministry should think about before doing so. Since preachers are called to teach, they are leaders and need to help the elders lead the flock. They need to teach the members HOW to do the things that many here are complaining about (administrative things, visits to the sick & old, etc.). I think it’d be a great idea for a preacher to deliberately ask members to go with him on visits, Bible studies, etc., to help him lock up & turn off all the lights of the building. It may seem silly, but I believe those are examples of setting those boundaries. And though I said I have trouble being assertive & setting boundaries myself, I do enjoy getting others to help me with certain tasks. I’m a big idea person; I plan potlucks or other activities for the church, but there are often small details I don’t think of, so I know I have to enlist help to think of all those details.

    I would encourage a minister starting a new job to start off doing this. From the very beginning, show your members by example how to get involved with these ministries — the best way is to take them with you!

  37. merry says:

    Lisa, you gave some great advice.

    However, there are times when preachers fervently work at all those things from the very beginning and the efforts are resisted or undermined or outright criticized by the rest of the leadership. It leads to all sorts of frustration when the people you are supposed to be working WITH toward a goal seem to be much more interested in criticizing you. There comes a point in time when no matter how hard you try to focus on all the blessings and be positive and upbeat you have to decide that you’ve done all that you can do in the capacity of your position.

  38. lisa says:

    I don’t disagree, Merry. I think the situations I’ve been in, where my Dad was a minister, were pretty good, supportive churches. I know his first congregation was pretty small and he was with them for 17 years before it finally seemed like it was time for change — for both him & the congregation. But I think he was able to teach them a lot about how to be a minister-supporting congregation.

    I am really sad about even the possibility that there are congregations out there that can’t work with a minister the way God would have them to. More than sad, that makes me pretty angry, to be honest. I’m sorry if any of you ministers have felt like you’ve been there.

    Speaking just from a “pew person’s” point of view, I have seen Bible class teachers, VBS helpers, and other servants in the church feel burned out just from working so hard for several years without enough help before they’ve finally quit. If it can happen to them, I can see how it would happen to ministers too. I pray we can all be servants and hard workers, so that none of us feel the need to quit because there’s too much work and not enough help.

    I suppose my last comment was hoping to encourage everyone, ministers & not, to train more workers. There will always be MUCH work. Those who feel they do too much (not just ministers) should be mentoring and training those that don’t help as much. Just a thought, hoping to help.

  39. merry says:

    Lisa, I agree with everything you said.

    I just wanted to present a different viewpoint in case some people might start to get the idea that when a ministry goes awry it’s always the preacher’s fault. That is so frustrating!

    Volunteer burnout is a big deal, too, and happens way too frequently and something church leaders don’t pay enough attention to.

  40. AncientWanderer says:

    Lisa-
    After more than a few years in ministry I have decided that what you describe is the nature of the beast.

    For the most part brethren WANT to do right they just don’t accomplish it as often as they WANT or any where near as often as the leadership WANTS. But, again, that IS ministry. We live in an age where people don’t want Teachers to teach, Police to enforce, Soldiers to kill. It shouldn’t surprise us that most don’t want Ministers to minister or Preachers to preach.

    The only thing I have a problem with is Preachers/Ministers that go into the Ministry thinking its a cooperative mission and everybody is going to help him. The best example I have is Moses. Moses never forgot that those were “God’s People” and not his- except once and that was his downfall.

    The leadership, Preachers included, are supposed to be on the front lines. When you are the Point Man you don’t leave something for others or expect others to come up and help you. If they do THAT’S GREAT but it isn’t something you should plan on… that’s all I’m saying.

    I think most Preachers don’t sit down with their families and tell them the cold hard truth about what “hubby” and “daddy” are about to do and how that is going to affect and effect the family. That isn’t the congregation’s fault- or the family’s fault either.

    I also think that more Preachers should be ready to move on and leave more brethren in the lurch. The church is becoming more and more polarized. Shortly it is going to be a “sellers” market when it comes to Preachers. We are about to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to: salary, benefits, and longevity. I hope we use these “physical” realities for a greater spiritual reality of training up congregations on the authority of Preachers- Yes, I just came out and said it (authority). We Preachers are about to be able to make some real changes in the Lord’s church in matters of Preacher-Congregation relationships.

    We need to make sure they are done along the lines of reformation and not reparation.

  41. Matthew says:

    This is a great post, thought provoking. I always wonder, do ministers have it hard than other people working in hard jobs, or am I just being negative. It is almost a pressure on ministers to say ministry is easy.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Too much emphasis on the minister. They are no different than the rest of us “members”. Those of us who work in the “secular” world work 50-60 hours, have wives that work to make ends meet, have stress, difficult issues with family members and ……………. then we get to go to “church” (since we don’t consider that church is everyday, every minute) and do it again with the expectations of all the church leadership. Preachers, elders, staff are not the only ones that face temptations and hard times. Sorry, hit a sore spot.

  43. merry says:

    Anonymous – We spent time being regular “members” before my husband entered vocational ministry. I don’t think the original article Trey linked to did a good job addressing the reasons behind the statistic, so I can understand your skepticism when reading something like that. Preachers are definitely not the only ones that face temptations and hard times, but we see things from a much different perspective now than we did before.

  44. TREY MORGAN says:

    Such great thoughts and comments here. I appreciate the spirit and love in which all these things were discussed.

    Lisa – thanks for sharing thoughts on both sides of the fence. The pew side and the ministry side. You made me think of some things that I had not considered.

    Don – you always challenge my thinking. We don’t always see exactly eye to eye on everything, but I value your wisdom and you knowledge. I always love your imput.

    Merry – my heart really goes out to you. I know this must be a touchy subject for you. I prayed for you guys today. It must be really hard to be hurt by a church or situation and keep all your faith in tact. I don’t know everything that happened but please don’t give up on ministry and don’t give up on people, there many ARE good people in church. Don’t allow the criticism of a few to effect you spiritually. I really appreciate your comments here and your heart that you share.

    Annon – Thanks for kicking in your two cents worth too.

  45. Bob Bliss says:

    Trey, I was distracted the last couple of days but I would like to add my 3 cents.

    I think we preachers/ministers are different than the rest of the congregation. We have three whole letters from Paul to 2 preachers to prove that. By different I don’t mean that the red carpet should be rolled out but we are different. We are different in many ways.
    1. We are outsiders. I’ve been well received by my current congregation but I’m still an outsider. I think that takes a toll on us. We often don’t develop good friendships within a congregation.
    2. We serve the congregation and not a business.
    3. We have a volunteer army and not one that we can command like a business. You have to learn the language of diplomacy.

    One of the things you haven’t mentioned is that we preachers have different kinds of personalities. Brian has helped us understand the introverted preacher and Don has helped us understand the “speak your mind” preacher. I’m extroverted with a touch of introversion. I would obsess about the 1% but hopefully not for too long and not so that it would damage my work.

    I do agree with Don that we preachers shouldn’t develop the “victim mentality” because I think that hurts us more than the stress of our work. Once we develop the victim mentality we get paranoid and see everyone as a potential threat.

    I recently read about the 20:80 rule. In stressful situations 20% of the stress comes from the situation itself. 80% comes from the weight we give to the situation. Yes preaching is stressful and has some unique situations, but if we are here to serve then serve.

  46. TREY MORGAN says:

    Bob, I’ve been wondering where you were. I was hoping you’d add to this. You have such a long healthy history in ministry. Thanks for you thoughts on this subject.

  47. One Observationist says:

    I wonder if part of the problem is the pastoral system we’ve put into place. In some cases we require the minister to lead the church. By himself. In the N.T. there were numerous examples of the responsibilities falling on other people within the congregation, i.e. elders, deacons.

    The way that we have organized the church itself demands more of the minister. Even the minister’s role today is different than what was presented in the N.T.

    So it doesn’t shock me that so many people want to get out of the formalized ministry. My dad has contemplated it on numerous occasions.

  48. TREY MORGAN says:

    One Observationalist – Thanks for your imput. I wonder the same things too.

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Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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