50% of today’s pastors will not retire as pastors - How can we reverse this?
Not sure we should.
@TomRHarper posted this on twitter today. Actually he posted the first line and I posted the second line. Let’s just state for the record that Tom is an excellent church consultant, smarter and better looking than me. And I think I get the drift of his statement and he means – Some really good people are being run off from the pastorate and how can we reverse that trend?
Tom has agreed to post a response on his blog and when he posts that response I will amend this tweet. Please feel free to join in the comments on both blogs. I am posting this at davetravisnow.com, learnings.leadnet and Tom is over at Church Central I think.
But I also got to thinking about some of my friends that I went to seminary with that have “left the ministry” even though they really haven’t…….and that is where we need to expand our thinking.
So let’s get a few things out of the way.
Some pastors leave the ministry due to moral issues – I am
not saying these should not be restored to ministry roles but some take a
permanent leave after those circumstan
Some pastors end up in jail for a variety of offenses. Hey I am not saying they can’t eventually serve again either (remember Paul and Martin Luther King Jr. did some jail time too).
Some mess up in other ways. Perhaps in their confusion about leadership models and what leadership is they split churches, cause division and carry a poor reputation with them and are unable to find (or plant) a church. Don’t think Tom is talking about those but hey, it does happen.
Some become professors at colleges and seminaries. Not for me I don’t think but they seem to find it fulfilling. Sure, they occasionally take an interim pastorate but I don’t think they consider themselves pastors.
Some become consultants, fund raisers, denominational servants, church builders, and other things in the “church related industry.” For many of these people, the new role brings great satisfaction. In fact they feel that God has uniquely equipped them for that role. I doubt Tom is talking about these folks but technically, they are no longer pastors. I know my own seminary considers me to have “left the ministry.” So does my grandmother, but I don’t feel that way.
I know multiple friends at smaller mission agencies and parachurch groups that took a key role to help that group expand its ministry. It’s not that they didn’t feel called to pastor, it’s just that they feel called to help those groups advance the kingdom outside the local church.
I even know of some pastors who have left to serve in the Private Foundation and charity world. Their skills for people development, vision casting and evaluation are highly valued. But they are not a pastor in the formal sense.
I know of some other pastors, who were great “successful” and prominent who entered another line of work. Some were related to family businesses where the whole of their clan needed their leadership. Some entered the teaching profession and have now teach in middle and high schools. Some did this for steady income or benefit reasons but most did it because they saw a great mission field that they felt they could serve. In their heart, they are somewhat still a pastor but just don’t serve in a formal church sense. I know a few that had family situations, such as a special needs child, that exited church leadership for the business world to better serve their entire family’s needs.
I know a fair amount of pastors who have gone into industrial, prison and military chaplaincy and have found that very fulfilling. I also know some that have become involved in the courts system and parole system. They still use their pastoral gifts to serve people but outside formal church structures. Have they left the ministry? Not in my mind.
I think the queasiness I have about Tom’s statement (in tweetable form mind you and he didn’t elaborate) is that I think our definition of “pastor” is too limited. My five-fold friends would say it is actually our view of the all the five fold ministries is too limited to “local church” as we have traditionally defined them.
I think the queasiness is also the assumption that I made that what Tom meant was “full time” or even “bivocational” pastors serving as lead pastor of a local church.
I just think there are lots of pastors who never serve a church and we probably don’t call them pastors. But we should. They have pastoral gifts and are exercising them to advance the kingdom.
Feel free to comment below on this and look for Tom's post over at Church Central in the next day or so in response.