Ministry

What to do Next if You’re Ready to Quit Ministry

By Chuck Lawless

Some days in ministry are really hard. God’s people can be troublesome, and few seem to understand the weight that pastors and church staff carry on their shoulders. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pastors simply worn out and ready to leave ministry as I see today.

If that’s where you are, maybe one of these suggestions will be helpful to you:

1. Be careful about making decisions in a storm. I’ve written at my own site about a sermon illustration making this point, but here’s the gist of it: if you change directions when you’re flying in a storm, you might find out you’re headed in the wrong way when you come out of the clouds. And, under God’s grace, you will come out of the clouds at some point. 

2. Review your call to ministry. I don’t know about your call, but I know mine was so clear to me that it would be hard to walk away completely. I might choose to do something else in ministry – including going bi-vocational or co-vocational – but I cannot escape my calling. It continues to ground me in my work no matter what I face.

3. Before you leave, be sure to talk with someone who’s “been there.” It might be someone who’s been there and worked through it, or it may be someone who stepped away. You might find from the latter that stepping away too quickly doesn’t resolve the issues. If you’re not already talking to others at Church Answers Central, I encourage you to join that community. It’s worth the investment.

4. Make sure you have a team of prayer warriors praying daily for you. I’ve heard too many stories of hurting pastors who don’t seek prayer support until they’ve already decided to move on. Get some folks praying proactively for you before you make that decision.

5. Look for just glimpses of God’s glory in your church. It’s easy to see only the negative—and even magnify it—when we’re hurting. That’s when we need to pray the prayer of Moses: “Please, let me see your glory” (Exo 33:18). When you pray that prayer, then, be sure to watch for what God shows you. Trust Him with anticipation.

6. If you haven’t taken some time off (either weekly or for vacation), take that time now. I’m frankly still learning to do this, learned the importance but I’ve of taking some time to “play.” I’m usually amazed by how much my perspective changes when I’ve had rest and relaxation.

7. See if your church would give you a one-month sabbatical. I know churches don’t always grant this request, but it may not hurt to ask. Maybe the leaders will recognize your need and grant it out of love for you and your family. Once in a while, congregations will surprise us . . .

8. If you do decide to leave, don’t let the enemy consume you with bitterness. Nobody wins when you carry bitterness into the future. In fact, your bitterness will become an idol if you don’t let it go—and that just makes things worse. Work hard to leave with a clear conscience and a clean heart. 

If this post speaks to your situation, let us know how we might pray for you.

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This article was written by Chuck Lawless and originally published at churchanswers.com on September 14. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

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