The question almost made me laugh. The pastor asked me if I ever considered quitting when I was a pastor. My response was quick and truthful: "Yes. On the average about once a week."
If you are a pastor who has not considered quitting, you are likely in the minority. And certainly there are times when we should leave. But, if your desire to quit is the result of the typical challenges of pastoring, allow me to share nine thoughts that may lead you to reconsider.
- Many storms pass quickly. I can remember times when I thought the world was crashing in on me. But, in a matter of a few weeks, the storm had passed. Many of the crises of the moment will become faded memories of the past.
- It's probably not you. Those critics and dissidents see you as a convenient target. They may not really be frustrated at you. But you are the most visible place to unload. It's probably another issue, and not you.
- The vast majority of the congregation supports you. I know. I've seen travesties where a pastor has been forced out by vengeful staff members and misguided personnel committees. But most of the time the minority does not have that power. Remember that the majority of the church members love and support you.
- Remember your call. You likely have a clear recollection of the time God called you to ministry and to this church. Remember that call. At times, it's what you need to hang in there.
- Longer-term pastors see better days. Sometimes it takes years to earn the leadership trust of the congregation. One of the gifts many pastors need is the gift of perseverance.
- Hurting church members often hurt others. Among those "others" are you, their pastor. Their grief and pain can unfortunately be directed at you.
- It's not better in other churches. Many pastors get the green grass syndrome. They move from church to church trying to find the church without problems, critics, and challenges. That church does not exist.
- The changing culture frustrates many church members. They remember the "good old days" where almost everyone went to church and change was minimal. They are frustrated and fearful, and they often see you as the problem.
- God is with you. I know you grasp this truth theologically, but you may need to pause to assimilate it experientially. God called you. God loves you. He will not abandon you.
While I focused on the pastor for these nine thoughts, it applies to all of you in vocational ministry. Serving a church can be tough. But you have been called to a ministry of service even to the "least of these." And the least of these can include those who are giving you the biggest headaches.
What do you think of these nine thoughts? What would you add? Let me hear from you.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on June 10, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves 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.