Things about “Former” Pastors

I’ ve always been interested in reading alleged insights about “former” pastors. “Former” meaning they are no longer pastoring a church, but may still be involved in a church ministry (as am I), or totally out of “church work.” Here are some of those “things” with links to their original source. These insights are valuable not just for former pastors, but for current pastors trying to deal with the pressures and doubts that come with church ministry, and those thinking of entering the ministry or leaving it.


Thom Rainer’s blog is one of my favorites. He has a post describing the “7 Things Former Pastors Don’t Miss”

  1. The critics, bullies, and power groups
  2. The stress of unrealistic expectations
  3. Meetings
  4. Being on call 24/7
  5. Stress placed on their families
  6. Dealing with church decline
  7. Administration and leadership

I’ve experienced each except for #6.


Chip Brodgen, a former pastor, writes in his blog about why he “doesn’t go to church anymore.” It’s profound. Here’s an excerpt.

“Today, of course, I get it. I understand the difference between being Christ-centered and Church-centered.”

This is something every pastor I’ve known also feels and believes, but they are working within the church or “near” the church (so to speak) to change that.


Carey Nieuwhof’s9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One”

This article was written about former pastors but also includes and applies to all sorts of former leaders (paid and volunteer) in a church who have a hard time landing somewhere else.

The writer’s bio suggested they have never actually been through being a “former” pastor, as the article reads more like a defense, …but I’m including it because some of its points are valid.

Of the 9 reasons, #4 is the one that I’ve been most open to self-criticism about.

“You’ve become more of a critic of worship than a worshipper.”

I struggle with this issue and the author’s conclusion, in part, because I think many pastors LACK the experience and perspective of sitting in the pew — which their “pewed pastors” could give them. For example, having preached sermons, I know a poorly constructed and delivered one when I hear it.

And I think the article makes some generalizations about “former church pastors” that are not alays true. For example, my walk with God has never been closer since I stopped being an in-church pastor.


OMG~~  There’s actually a website called “ExPastors.com”

The “dot com” caught my attention, so suffice to say this site is trying to make a buck off of the phenomenon of pastors quitting church ministry. But… their content has the ring of truth to it and I would recommend expastors.com not only to former pastors, but current pastors and leaders –so that you can recognize the signs of trouble, no matter what your signs are.

This entry at their site quotes a lot of statistics about pastors and former pastors, reasons for leaving, etc.

Here’s are some stat I’ve seen quoted elsewhere too:

  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.


About Myself

I did not “quit” pastoring churches, so I can only tangentially relate to those who did. Instead, I left full-time church work in 1996 to start a Christian education resource ministry. I was not leaving the old behind, but rather, seeking to give birth to the new (see my work with sundaysoftware.com and rotation.org). In fact, I always expected to “get back into” church pastor work at some point, and have done so twice over the past 20 years on a part-time basis. I have one foot in and one foot out, so to speak.

But I have also LEFT certain congregations as a volunteer pastor-in-the-pew for many of the same reasons pastors leave the ministry. So I’m interested in all these subjects and willing to reflect not only on my own journey, but on the journey that we are all making to help the Church live up to its “advertising,” if not promise. Read more about my experience being a “pastor on the loose” here in this blog.

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