My friend clams up each time I mention pastoral ministry. In the three years since she left her job as a pastor for work in higher ed, she hasn’t talked about the entrenched sexism and racism that eventually caused her to leave ministry. It’s too soon; the wounds are still fresh.
The Great Resignation is underway in the United States with an astounding 3 percent of employees collectively refusing the terms of low-wages, absent benefits, and dangerous working conditions expected by their bosses. Pastors, too, are walking away. Recent poll data collected by Barna Group, a California-based research firm that studies faith and culture, confirmed what I’m seeing among my friends and colleagues. According to Barna, about 38 percent of Protestant senior pastors surveyed have considered leaving ministry over the past year. Among pastors under age 45, that number rose to 46 percent.
Former and current pastors have shared with me that their denominations and powerful congregants have pushed for a false unity that tolerates homophobia, racism, and conspiracy theories. My friend Ryan, a seasoned pastor, finally gave up. He felt that he could no longer follow the work of the Holy Spirit when he was expected to make room for people who actively thwarted God’s movement.
For decades, church people assumed their pastors’ commitment to the church would supersede any bruising and bullying that congregants doled out.