Friday, September 15, 2023
You will have heard of the ‘Great Resignation’. It refers to a labour phenomenon that gained significant attention around the world starting in 2021. It describes a period during which a substantial number of workers across various industries voluntarily left their jobs or chose not to rejoin the workforce following the economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This phenomenon was characterized by a surge in resignations, job switches, and people reevaluating their career paths and priorities.
Church ministry has not been exempt. Though I am not aware of any ‘hard data’ in NZ we know many Pastors in NZ have resigned since C-19 or are still thinking about it. [As a side note I think one of the key reasons we are struggling to recruit suitable men and women into the pastoral leadership vocation in NZ are the exact same reasons why others have resigned and/or are unhappy in their work]. It is also true that other pastors are still physically present but have effectively checked out, their hearts are no longer in it which is rarely a satisfactory situation and often leads to other maladies.
The reasons given for this rather sad state of affairs are many but the top five (out of a total of 18) according to Barna’s research in 2022 are:-
- The immense stress of the job: 56%
- I feel lonely and isolated: 43%
- Current political divisions: 38%
- I am unhappy with the effect this role has had on my family: 29%
- I am not optimistic about the future of my church: 29%
Though this is a study from out of America, I doubt few of us couldn’t relate to most if not all of these reasons. The one exception may be ‘current political divisions’ that has become a lightning rod in the American church. That said I am worried that it is starting to rare it’s ugly head here in New Zealand but I am not aware that it is as severe as it is in the States not yet anyway.
I know this makes for grim reading. I’m tempted to apologise for this because as a man of faith I am supposed to be upbeat and ‘full of faith’. But honestly, after the confessions and the pronouncements are done the reality still remains. And the reality is that for about 25-30% of pastors life is tough and the struggle is real. So I want to say to you today take some time out and do it soon. Taking time out will give you some much needed breathing room. It will give you time for contemplation, reflecton and prayer. It will also give you time to have some deep conversations with your spouse, your kids (if that seems appropriate), and your mentor/spiritual director amongst others. Perhaps you should go for a few counselling sessions. All this will hopefully bring clarity and perspective as to what you should do. Please don’t let the ‘overwhelm’ and the current stress you are experiencing knock you around so badly that you feel you have to get out to simply to survive.
The remedy to disappointment, hurt, stress and overwhelm is to STOP what you are doing and get some help. For your sake, your families sake and your congregation’s sake please take some time out.