Because I travel in and
out of many churches and seminary classrooms Im encountering
more and more of my peers who want out of ministry,
feel trapped in their career, or who are wondering what
other careers does my ministry degree equip me for?
Still others indicate
the exhausting frustration with their churches and denominations
because of the infighting over political and superficial issues
that mean nothing to carrying out the Great Commission or the Great
Commandment. Others tell me that if they dont leave the church
theyll lose their family, for their churches expect them to
be at every meeting, every surgery, every funeral (and theres
a growing number of these in most of our churches) and to be proficient
to counsel the ever-growing complexity of family and personal problems.
So what are distressed
pastors to do? If theyre realizing that for their sake, the
sake of their families, and the sake of the ministry they need to
either take a break from the local congregation or consider another
career that fulfills the calling, what should they do?
What career alternatives
are out there for this growing host of disillusioned, disenfranchised,
and distressed clergy? How can a committed and called person find
fulfillment and integrity in other careers and remain true to the
calling to ministry? I think theres great hope and many opportunities
emerging. This article will simply try to summarize the emerging
opportunities Im encountering.
Distress of Todays Clergy
Todays clergy face
what seem to be insurmountable mountains of challenges on just about
every front of their career and calling. Permit me to simply provide
a working list of challenges:
Most were trained
in seminary for a world and a church that no longer exist. Seminaries
seemed determined to preserve classical European models effective
in a churched culture, while the culture has shifted and the local
church needs have shifted. Some seminaries are making needed curriculum
changes with high degrees of success. But for some seminaries, we
have miles to go before an effective model is found that will produce
leadership cores and tithing cores are aging out. These changes
create many challenges and opportunities that are calling on skill
sets and faith formation that many clergy lack and many congregations
arent ready for or open to pursuing.
oddly enough, is something that hasnt often been effectively
modeled or taught, and therefore we have some clergy slipping into
CEO mentalities and models.
is outdated in many ways for our secular culture challenges. Decision
making is laborious at best in most traditions, and younger people
arent going to be stuck in this cycle of getting permission
while the older generation feels this is the way we do things
are pressing on every front. Worship wars are everywhere because
various age groups prefer different styles. Curriculum battles are
present for similar reasons. Time frame and program offerings face
similar challenges. Blending services often leads to congregational
confusion and creates an unhappy exodus or tension-filled church
families are facing challenges every other family seems to be facing
these days. Divorce, remarriage, challenges with children and teenagers,
communication battles, dealing with family-of-origin issues, dysfunctions,
and the stresses related to living in a fish bowl.
is epidemic among clergy who are expected to do all the pastoral
care themselves. How many times have you as a pastor been called
back from family vacations for funerals, emergencies, and often
called away from your own family to care for other families?
opportunities are rampant, but many church leaders and members dont
see the need for their pastor to go away two or three times a year
for such relevant training. If they allow them to go
(rather than encourage or expect them to go), they often restrict
how much the church will pay for the expenses that might be incurred.
Yet the reality is that continuing education is a necessitynot
While this list is only
suggestive, it shows us the challenges we face that seem to be contributing
to the growing distress. Such issues and challenges are creating
a growing leadership crisis in many churches today.
The intense and pervasive
challenges in our church and culture are creating a leadership crisis
in many churches and denominations. Several valuable studies have
been done the last several years that document this crisis in much
better ways than Ill summarize here. If you want to do further
study, see research and resources on the following Web sites:
These sites will provide
statistical data and hard data that explains the crisis pastors
are facing in ministry today. I want to share with you some observations
and soft data that will put a face to this epidemic among our clergy.
Some of our best and
brightest are leaving church ministry for secular careers. Last
year, on my personal calendar, I started listing all the pastors
from my connections in the southeast United States who notified
me they were leaving the church for a secular career. I had at least
four names every week listed on my calendar for the entire year.
Let me share with you
some excerpts from an email I received this week from a colleague
contemplating a career move and struggling with his dissatisfaction:
As you note in
your writing, Im a pastor who spends much of my time (especially
in a retirement community like this) holding hands with folks who
expect the pastor to hold hands with them but who do not need the
pastor to hold hands with them. I am very much, in Carlyle Marneys
words, a kept harlot. I work way too many hours a week,
and I spend those hours with people that Jesus would not have invested
so much time with. And I cant go to my supervisor and ask
to block out time to build relationships with unchurched people.
I could go to the deacons and my deacons would be supportive. But
when the phone rings and somebody who knows the Lord wants me to
go see somebody else who knows the Lord, Im still expected
to go. If I say, Sorry, but I really wanted to go hang with
some lost people, I would be out of a job soon enough.
I have three kids.
One is about to start college. The other two will start college
soon enough. I need a job that pays. My salary package is actually
pretty generous, and I am thankful for that. The people like me
and they are supportive of me. Yet what we are doing is not all
of what we need to be doing. Indeed, it is my conviction that the
most important part of our calling goes largely undone, and that
calling is to build bridges to the people like you have been building
Ministerial burnout is
rampant. I know a number of colleagues who are on mood altering
medications in order to get help with depression, stress, and mood
swings. Other indicators of this are those ministers fighting with
sexual temptations, pornography, family pressures, and low self-image
Two good resources for
dealing with ministerial burnout are Beating Burnout (Alban Institute)
by Lynne Baab (www.alban.org) and Crashing Without Burning (Smyth
& Helwys) by David Matthew (www.helwys.com).
Financial stress and
complications. Several colleagues are facing retirement or are currently
in retirement with no home (because they have lived in parsonages)
and little or no retirement funds because their churches have provided
little or no retirement plans and insufficient salaries. Those still
working are stressed because their children are moving into college
and they have no funds or no savings.
Many churches arent
able or choose not to provide sufficient salary packages. Research
does indicate this is improving in some areas of the country and
within several denominations. However, this financial crunch is
a major reason some pastors are leaving the churchtodays
economy just requires more to live than it used to. The amount of
education of many clergy and the amount of their salaries are out
of line with other comparable degrees and professions.
These and many other
elements are involved in the leadership crises being faced among
our churches today. In many parts of the country, there arent
enough pastors and priests to go around. More churches and fewer
priests and pastors create a paralyzing vacuum. In some places this
vacuum is forcing the lay leaders to step up to the plate and pick
up some of the responsibilities that Scripture says belong to thembut
they had relegated to clergy for decades.
One pastor friend was
seriously ill for monthsand his formerly pastor-dependent
church cared for him, supported him through various surgeries and
recoveries, picked up the slack, and performed responsibilities
of ministry very efficiently and effectively. When he recovered
and was back in the saddle again, they handed it all back to him.
He refused to take it and then affirmed them and validated their
ministry and effectiveness. He suggested that was the way the New
Testament church was to function. They refused to continue their
ministry and fired him.
for Todays Clergy
As we can see, ministry
often seems overwhelming and fruitless for the amount of effort
one expends, and it seems impossible to meet the mounting and often
unrealistic expectations by church members who would prefer to keep
things the way they are than change things in order to reach others.
Such realities are prompting many pastors to explore alternative
careers. Below are listings of those options Ive noted as
Ive listened to the disenchanted and walked with some of them
through this maze of calling and ministry options. Certainly this
isnt an exhaustive list but indicative. Many pastors seeking
alternative careers often have a difficult time translating their
multiple ministry skills into new careers and new résumés.
many opportunities for clergy that often are a win-win for everyone.
The pastors looking to continue his or her calling, and the
faith-based organization needs a person of faith with team-building,
fund-raising, and management skills to move them forward. The Peter
F. Drucker Foundation offers much guidance these days to FBOs and
those in their employment. The current government administration
is working very hard to create more FBOs and is investing more time
and money into their creation.
offer many opportunities. While many FBOs are nonprofit, there are
other nonprofit organizations that arent FBOs. Working through
local business organizations or the chamber of commerce may open
the door of opportunity.
Social service agenciesare
great matches for people who want to help others. The helping professions
are varied and the government offices are always looking for people
to help with protective services, counseling, financial counseling,
adoption issues, food services, and financial support services.
public and private schools. Higher education, home schooling, and
classrooms for people of all ages need teachers, and a ministers
skills often translate beautifully. Sometimes further training is
needed for certification.
Management and human
resourcesare other naturals for those clergy who are appropriately
gifted. Businesses of all types are looking for those who manage
finances, personnel, resources, and community relations. (www.astd.org)
the hearts of many pastors. Sermon writing and delivery is great
training for that first novel, Christian books, management books,
or those words that simply share your story. Attend a writers
conference and see what happens!
natural for some. Take the lessons youve learned in the school
of hard knocks and create a business forum with others who can help
lead churches and leaders forward in faith and function. Theres
a growing demand and respect for these entrepreneurs across all
denominational lines. (www.coaching.com, www.internal-impact.com)
a growing field and holds much promise for fulfilling the Great
Commission and the Great Commandment in many fields of life. Were
told that coaching will have a strong future in areas of spiritual-life
coaches, career coaches, food coaches, parenting coaches, marriage
coaches, and many other arenas. (www.coaching.com, www.christiancoachesnetwork.com,
raisingis another natural for some. Managing budgets,
raising funds, and creating multiple funding streams for ministry
is great training for many financial careers. Financial planning,
financial resourcing, banking, fund raising, and financial oversight
for conventions or businesses are just a few places to serve.
Funeral home industryis
another natural. Death is inevitable and many unchurched people
need care and support during this time. Bereavement counseling and
creation of support services and partnerships with churches for
helping people are critical and valuable ministries.
a career for the administratively gifted. Businesses of all kinds
are looking for help in this area in an age of downsizing and retooling
of organizations. (www.astd.org)
Research and resource
developmentare avenues of ministry that many explore and
find great satisfaction. Many philanthropists are willing to fund
entrepreneurial research and development projects through grants
and foundation gifts. (www.fdncenter.org)
Media and Web-based
learningis for those who have passions for television,
radio, media, and Web-based learning and design.
become a skill of many clergy that the business world can benefit
from and accommodate.
avenues where the world needs people of faith and integrity. Run
for an office in your community, county, state, or nation. Follow
your passions and callings in the world.
Pastor in the business
worldwhere many Fortune 500 companies and businesses across
the world are hiring pastors to care for their employees and to
rebuild trust and integrity in the community in which they serve.
The Soul of the Firm
(Zondervan) by C. William Pollard, and The Gathered and Scattered
Church (Smyth & Helwys) by Edward Hammett.
Coaching Helps in
Some research has been
done indicating that about 55 percent of todays pastors are
transitioning locations of ministry each year. The research is also
clear that those pastors who stay in ministry in the midst of distress
are able to do so because they have a coach/mentor in ministry.
Those making career transitions, life transitions, location transitions,
or other types of ministry transitions are much happier if theyre
coached through the transition. Id encourage those facing
such transitions or distress to consider hiring a coach. Coaching
sessions are all about you, about your agendas, and a confidential
and trusting relationship with someone. The coach has your best
interests at heart and is trained to ask questions to help you discover
the best answers for you, to help you avoid blind spots, and to
align your decisions with discernment of Gods call. Coaches
can be found in many places. You might want to interview several
coaches before making your selections. Christian coaches can be
discovered by visiting www.christiancoachesnetwork.com, www.holli
or other sites can be found on the link page of www.transformingsolutions.org.
Its my hope that
this article might stimulate a conversation among church leaders,
denominational executives, and business leaders and provide some
encouragement and hope for those distressed. Im convinced
that Gods doing a new work among his people and is scattering
many of his best and brightest into the workplace in daily life
to be salt, light, and leaven in the world.
I hope this article will
stimulate dialogues online and in learning communities of searching
persons. If you want to dialogue more about this article, join my
online community. If youre interested visit www.transforming
Edward Hammett is
a congregational and personal coach with the Baptist State Convention
of North Carolina. His most current book is Reframing Spiritual
Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture (Smyth & Helwys).