Before Reading On:
If you’re thinking about quitting, don’t let this article be the deciding factor. These are reasons based on my experiences, some I acted on and some I did not. Most of my decisions to stay or leave a church were bathed in prayer and struggle. I write this to you because I don’t want you to stay at a problem church longer than you have to or leave sooner than you should. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, pray and seek God before making any big decision.
I’ve struggled with when to leave with every church I’ve served with, not so much the ones I was asked to leave 🙂 . But, I’ve never left a church because of the kids.
Leaving the students is the hardest part. They don’t understand. Just like they don’t understand why mom and dad get a divorce. They don’t understand the pressures and stress of adulting and the choices we have to make whether they’re personal or professional.
I used to believe that job and calling were the same thing, it wasn’t true.
I used to believe I should shut my mouth and suffer no matter what the church did, I was wrong.
I used to believe I needed some spooky sign from God to leave a church, a burning bush, a fleece. This kind of thinking is not longer part of my DNA. I am not saying God does not give us signs, I am saying I believe the signs are less mystical and printed in bold letters for us to see.
I used to believe you shouldn’t leave a church because ministry was more important than money, I was wrong. My number one ministry is my family, if I cannot support them, what good is all the other?
Let me give you a three clear signs when it might be time to leave.
When you can’t get anything done
No. No. No. Over and over again. When ever ideas is shot down and every endeavor is criticized, it’s time to go. Why did you take this job? Why did the church hire you? If you’re not allowed to do any of the things you were hired to do, then why stay?
Remember, your job is not your calling. If you’re called to do something you can do it anywhere. A job provides the platform for your calling to be realized. Jesus gave the disciples a job,
If you enter a town and they welcome you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’But if you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into the streets and declare, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off as a testimony against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Luke 10: 8-12
If you are kingdom focused and came to a church to do kingdom work, but the church rejects you, move on. Jesus gave the disciples permission to move on from the places that rejected the work and the message they were trying to bring. Don’t feel guilty or bad if you have to move on.
Now, if God calls you to a place, like Jonah, well, you’re going to just have to suffer through it until the task God called you to do is done. This call may be to a certain church, city or area. Stay until your task is complete.
When you’re tired of being broke
I have been in more churches that paid me less than I was worth than in churches who paid me at least what I was worth, I have never worked in a church where I was paid more than I was worth. Worth is determined by many things, such education, experience, or talent.
Don’t let the church determine your worth, you do that. Do your homework. Find out what others are making similar to you in similar situations before you talk salary in your interview. If the church cannot pay you a decent salary to support your family, it’s ok to pass.
If you’re in a situation where the church is paying you less than you are worth and all you do is fight with your wife at home about finances, it’s time to step up and ask for a raise, not only because you’re worth it but because your family is worth it.
Poverty is not a sign of piety and riches are not a sign of God’s blessing.
When the environment is toxic
“Grow where you’re planted” I’ve heard that 1,000 times and said it a thousand more. It is true, but it is much harder to grow when the soil your growing is akin to spiritual nuclear waste. Here are some areas to keep a reading on for toxicity
I was never going to win an argument with my Pastor. No amount of argument or loving correction was going to win the day. I’ve sat under some ridiculous teachings that I was never going to change. That’s why you should ask whether you can follow the leader instead of just looking at the church amenities such as great worship or facilities.
If I were smarter and had more experience, back in the day, I would have picked up on some things I missed like bias towards certain kinds of sin, how women are looked at, racism and a lack of love for the outsider. I would have listened to past messages but my guess is my love for young people and my idealism that I could change things would probably have gotten in the way.
If the same dumb decisions are being made over and over again, it’s time to go. I want God’s church to move forward and I do not want to be on a train heading no where. One reason I chose to retire from full time youth pastoring, and essentially being on church staff, is that I could not find a team that wanted to win. I found that surviving was good enough for most churches and risks were not welcome.
If a leader is a bully or a baby I have no time for that. No leadership is perfect. No Pastor is perfect but there has to be a baseline for modeling spiritual growth for everyone who claims the title of leader.
You may not be involved in any of these, but as I alluded to above, but they are the cause of many of a church’s disfunction. If the Body of Christ is fighting with the pastor and always pushing back, how can anything get done?
- It’s possible that big money people run the church or a few families that have all the power.
- It may be the committee that oversees your ministry.
- It maybe with the adult volunteers you have.
Some of these issue are bound to come up, and your leadership will be tested. I’m not saying you should cut and run a the first sign of trouble, I’m saying that over time, watch for patterns and decide if if the upside is worth the downside.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
I struggled, like most in the ministry, about my choices and God’s will. Is this God’s will? If I quit, am I out of God’s will? Questions like this struck fear in my heart, but I realized that God’s will is pretty broad and me quitting a job was not the end of the world.
I gave you three reasons to quit, but they’re my opinion. Every reason to quit is nuanced with reasons why you should stay. Ultimately you have to decide what you’re willing to put up with and for how long. There is no perfect church, but there may be a more perfect community of faith than where you are.
Before you make any decision to quit, maybe I can help. I have a coaching group called The Ministry Mind that may help you sort things out and maybe become invigorated to stay. You can find out more here.