When you feel like quitting ministry: An emergency checklist
Before you throw in the towel, send in your resignation, or announce your decision to head off into the sunset, here are a few things to consider:
1. Is it Monday?
For those in ministry, Monday is not the day to make any major life-altering decisions. Most pastors are not in their best frame of mind on Mondays. It is not uncommon for pastors to be more fatigued than usual, drained emotionally, and spiritually depleted on Mondays. Hold fast on a Monday.
2. Have you sought wise counsel from a godly and unattached party?
Your best counsel will likely come from a godly and more experienced minister not directly related to your situation. Before you “pull the trigger” and resign, share all of the details with someone you know has been through the highs and lows of real ministry. This person could be a retired pastor, mentor, former seminary professor, or a wise and godly saint.
3. Is your resignation based on your genuine desire to honor God or is it motivated by frustration with a specific person or party?
This cuts to the heart of the matter. If your resignation is not based on a clear belief that God will be honored and it is “his plan” for you to go, hold fast. You may still need to change some things up, try something new, or adjust priorities in your current ministry. Don’t move if you lack the clarity and confidence that God will be honored in the decision you make.
4. How is your spiritual walk with Christ?
Sometimes we pastors can be guilty of neglecting the very spiritual disciplines that we teach others to follow. My walk with Jesus should be “white hot” not cool and tepid, regardless of my ministry circumstances. If your walk is cool, make today the day you start looking up and turning to God. Fan the flames of your faith by searching the Scripture, prayer, and personal devotion. You may not be able to do all that you aspire to do in ministry at the moment, but there is a lot you can do right now.
5. Are you physically well?
While not always directly related, how you feel physically can influence your state of mind and the decisions you make. Plus, we pastors do not always do an awesome job of taking care of ourselves. My mindset and positivity suffer when I’m not getting some type of exercise. I’m not saying you have to take up CrossFit or competition bodybuilding (although that might not be a bad idea). However, you do need some type of regular exercise. Start with a few walks around the block each week.
6. Have you been spending any time with friends?
Do you have any real friends? It’s easy to operate in isolation, but it’s not healthy. I strongly believe part of the enemy’s plan is to isolate pastors emotionally. When you are separated from the blessings of fellowship and regular and honest accountability, you will have difficulty fighting the good fight. You need real friends.
7. Does your spouse have peace about this decision?
More than likely your spouse will view this situation a bit differently than you. I believe you should carefully listen to your spouse on all major decisions. You are the one who is ultimately going to make the decision, but God has given you a valuable helper. A wise pastor carefully considers the opinions of their spouse. Thankfully, my wife and I have been blessed to be “on the same page” on every major decision.
8. Have you recently had a crisis or hardship in ministry?
It could be a bad business meeting, comments from a cold-blooded critic, or a betrayal. Don’t let temporary heartaches and trouble be the deciding factor. Instead, reevaluate, pray, and seek wise counsel before pulling the plug.
9. Are you wanting to leave because they will “never” change?
Never say never. While it may feel like the situation will never change, things rarely remain the same. Change is constant. Don’t allow the lie, “things will never change,” to convince you that the only option is resignation.
10. Are you bitter?
There is nothing that will negatively shape your appraisal of a situation like bitterness. Bitterness is a real killer. Sadly, I’ve met a lot of bitter Christians, and a few bitter pastors. Bitterness will twist how you see others and yourself. Commit to finding freedom from bitterness. Go to war against it and kill it. Bitterness is a root that has to be dug out (cf. Hebrews 12:15). The solution for bitterness is forgiveness. If you are holding onto something, your top priority must be to get freedom. Real freedom does not come from a change in location, but a change in the heart.
11. Is your resignation based on a condition?
I generally don’t recommend a person resign based on a specific condition. For example: “If _____ does not happen, then I am gone!” We are usually way to close to the situation at hand to be objective. Instead of resigning based on a specific condition, find a godly and objective party (See #2) to help you evaluate the situation at hand.
These are just a few things to consider as you evaluate if it is time to leave. Remember all of the decisions a pastor makes must be evaluated in light of the clear teaching of Scripture and committed to prayer. Your decision should come from the healthy outflow of your personal walk with Christ (see #4). Some seasons of ministry are more difficult than others. Ministry is really hard. However, Jesus is faithful. There is no hardship that is beyond his ability to give you help, peace, and joy, even in the midst of the fire.