Can women in ministry assume the responsibility of taking over churches due to the lack of interest in men continuing the responsibility. Can the woman assume the responsibility of power given to men to lead others when they are reluctant to go? Leadership is power and it does not work with what is expected of women. Some women want to appear to be powerless in order to be attractive to men and acceptable to other women. That will not work in ministry. Strength is an important variable in leadership, and true leadership is not a popularity contest. The church is not in the business of popularity contest, the issues of living and spiritual dying are too important for cuteness. If you cannot walk tall and carry a big stick, then perhaps the role of leadership is not for you. Women considering taking over the leadership role in large church may benefit from reading literature on the Historical Black Church and how it differs from the traditional European base institution in theology and technique. Women in ministry could benefit from understanding the process of duality. Still strong as wives and mothers, they can expand to fulfill the need of leadership of God’s Church and people, without missing a step, suggesting that women can not only give birth to the word, but care and nurture those who are to receive the word.

 

We did it before, and we can do it again – time to revive the Christian message

The failure of Christianity may be the hidden cause of the increase in the decline of church attendance in America. The role of the church has changed. The role of Christian teaching has switched from helping people to sustain themselves in a difficult complex world, to a role of preparing people to die- go to heaven and meet Jesus. Those who cannot accept those teaching are doomed to hell – ignored and forgotten. The idea that people are no good condemned creatures from the moment of birth is wrong, and Christianity – churches and pastors are wrong for teaching hopeless concepts. God is a God of love and compassion, and Jesus- the Son and messenger- is a friend sent here as man to walk with man through the struggles of life.

Christianity teaches that man is never alone- whether living in servitude and bondage- or born in the worst slums or richest emotionally deprived mansions of the world. Man comes into life through pain- suffering the challenges of enduring all the abuses of being in an enclosed space for 9 months- surviving on whatever his mother chooses to take into her system- bashing its delicate head through narrow bony passages and being ripped from the safe sanctuary of the womb- and dragged head first into a new world. It was God that sustained the life- it was God that gave the child the strength to survive and get born. For many- life would repeat the process of enduring- sustaining and birth. African Americans, born into slavery, in the colonies- learned of this God of power- strength and friendship- and when the re-birth into an outer world of freedom- they knew how to survive. Churches for African Americans could not be heaven waiting rooms- or hell’s distribution centers- churches had to constructed like a womb- ready to handle whatever the body was subjected. Life for African Americans was no bed of roses- and life had to continue- it could not survive without planned help. Historical Black Churches were more than spiritual guide centers, they were universities of life – and all children and adults were expected to go for the higher education principles of life.

Without regular attendance in the university of life- individuals will feel a void in life – which they will attempt to fill with pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol- all designed to change the way the brain process events- feeling and consequences. Without church- man feels he is entitled to a smooth feel good life and is unwilling to experience the down time of human existence. Slaves had to learn how to self sooth- separate event and circumstances from defining identity- and go to that God place- reaffirming him as an image and likeness of a protective creator. The outer world does not define who or what an individual is or can be- that program was placed in the foundational seeds of life forming creation inside of the womb. What a man is and can become was already determined when life created itself- with the help of God in the womb of the beginning. In the beginning the life sustaining force- the Christ- was there to help with the growth and development stages. Disconnecting from the God source at any stage in life will require artificial substances to feel the experience of reconnection. Drug addicts seek to reconnect with the missing variable of spirituality. Man without God becomes and addict- and continuation of the God factor will lead to death. The Historical Black Churches knew this factor- and encouraged continual attendance in all church activities. Church activities were not sin blaming sessions or preaching hell fire and brimstone messages- demeaning the human soul- men do not attend services where male bashing and image destructions sermons are given. Today many churches have returned to the traditional European Christian model of churches as holding centers for sinners- unworthy of any of the graces of God. Perhaps in an effort to address issues of drug addictions epidemic in the white middle and upper class communities around the country- we could look at how the African American handled an insensitive outer world- without destroying itself

 

Rev. Dr. Rowland Croucher 7 Bangor Court, Heathmont, Victoria, Australia 3135

© John Mark Ministries. Articles may be reproduced in any medium, without applying for permission (provided they are unedited, and retain the original author/copyright information – and perhaps a reference to this website :-)!

Click here to visit John Mark Ministries at http://jmm.aaa.net.au/

PS from PLS: For those who have experienced pastor burnout, for those of you define yourselves as pastors leaving ministry, seeking someone to listen is a necessary step to take. And in your seeking, I am convinced that immediately seeking pastor employment opportunities may not be the wisest approach. You need time for inner healing and God’s redirection to occur.

Until you are ready for ministry employment, let me suggest you get support by visiting a website dedicated to helping Wounded Shepherds.  

Pastors Leaving Ministry
“Is it still fun?”* For the majority of those who are no longer in parish ministry, whether by choice, or because their ministry was prematurely terminated, the answer to this question was “no”.

Tired Joyless Ministry
One ex-pastor who had served in his denomination for nine years said, “I was sick and tired of having a joyless ministry”.

Pastoral ministry, commenced with high ideals and expectations, had become a source of stress, had caused a lowering of self-confidence, and a sense of powerlessness for over half of the 243 ex-parish pastors who have responded to our questionnaire.

And yet many would identify with the person who said, “but my ‘sense of call’ remained; [I] felt guilty that I could not fulfill my calling.”

Career Change for Pastors
About 20% of ex-pastors in parish settlements left to move into another career, (either within their denomination, a para-church organization or a secular position).

One-quarter of these have done so without hurt, conflict, loss of health, or plain boredom, being their underlying motivation. The few can say, “I had enjoyed a total of 15 years of parish ministry and I felt ready for a new challenge in ministry”, or saw the move into another area of ministry as the natural next step because of the gifts and the expertise that they possessed.

 

Spiritual Consequences to Pastor Burnout
Many more would say something like, “I was “burnt-out”. God gave me a way out – I was tired of fighting unproductive battles with the few.”

Only one-third of those who have responded with questionnaires are presently engaged in Christian “full-time” work. Indeed, 7% of ex-pastors are no longer worshipping on Sundays, and a further 33% are not using their ministry gifts in any way in the local congregation. This is not always the fault of the ex-pastor.

One ex-pastor who left for health reasons in mid-life said, “to move from “core involvement” to the perimeter is a big enough transition. Finding oneself unable to make it into even the outer fellowship circle can be a painful experience.”

CAUSES OF PASTORS LEAVING MINISTRY
So what causes a pastor to leave the vocation, which was entered a few years earlier with enthusiasm, and in response to the call of God?

Pastors And Church Conflict
The most significant reason (for approximately half of the sample) is conflict. This conflict may be with

  • Local lay leaders,
  • Colleagues in the parish,
  • Members of the congregation,
  • Or denominational leaders.

Conflict with local church leaders (lay and other pastors) is mentioned as one of the most significant factors in the actual decision to leave by one quarter of all respondents, and difficult relationships with denominational leaders by approx. 20%.

One ex-pastor feeling a lack of support from all areas said that the key reason for his leaving was “local church politics… [I was] not permitted to pursue decisions approved by the congregation.”

Another who had experienced conflict with colleagues said, “[I had] a growing awareness of the need for a change to enable a return of energy, enthusiasm and vision.”

Lack Of Support/Encouragement For Pastors
When this is combined with the fact that half of the ex- pastors surveyed have felt a lack of support/encouragement in the pastorate, this raises serious questions about the quality of fellowship in many of our churches.

The ex-pastor is often left with intense feelings of failure, anger, a sense of betrayal (not only by others, but also by God), resentment and guilt. These can take many years for the pastor, the pastor’s spouse and teenage or adult children to work through to a point of healing.

Pastor’s Spouse/Family Issues
Spouse/family issues are often significant in the decision to leave the pastorate.

  • Problems in the marriage relationship is mentioned specifically by 13.5% of respondents,
  • 10% of spouses have had problems accepting the lifestyle,
  • And 16% mention family problems.

Factor analysis of the various factors operating when pastors leave parish ministry has shown a definite clustering around the questions relating to spouse, family, housing, finance and mobility.

When these factors are considered together, the significance of the pastor’s personal relationships would appear to be important for about a third of those who decide to leave the pastorate.

A regular response in the questionnaires is the felt need “to spend more time with my wife and family”. Adultery on the part of the pastor is THE reason for leaving for some of our respondents. Sadly, this often occurs when the pastoral ministry has been progressing effectively.

One perceptive ex-pastor for whom adultery and the subsequent break-down of his marriage had been the key issue said: “The inability of the church to deal with my situation, the closing off from expression/acknowledgement of issues relating to sexuality and lack of opportunity for support/examination or reflection to help me was significant.”

The church may need to develop better ways of responding with care in these situations.

The significance of spouse/family/sexuality issues appear to differ across the denominations, and may well be accentuated by conflict in the parish. More work needs to be done in these areas to gain a clearer understanding of the interrelationships between these issues.

The Pastor Coming to Grips With “Self” And Health
These two issues re-cur as very significant reasons in the decision to leave the parish. “Self”, including a loss of self-confidence, inability to continue to cope, and awareness of weaknesses, is the most often given reason for leaving.

Health factors (often associated with stress/burnout) are the third reason given (after self and conflict with local church leaders). It would be very wrong to assume that the third of pastors who acknowledge self as a factor in their decision were unsuited to the pastoral ministry. (There are a few for whom this is so.)

Many ex-pastors (about 40%) have good self-knowledge, and have learnt through their experience. One ex-pastor said: “some of my inter-personal skills needed attention”, and many have sought counseling help to look at themselves.

Often it is the conflict and the lack of encouragement experienced in the pastorate, which compounds self, health and marriage/family issues. The experience of many is that as the conflict continues unabated, there is a loss of confidence in oneself.

The stress begins to affect the health and relationships of the pastor, and this combination results in the decision that the pastoral ministry is no longer tenable. For some, this decision leads them to take “time out” for either a sabbatical and/or further study. But only 4% of the respondents have returned to the pastorate.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?
The analysis of returned questionnaires continues. But there is a need for a much larger sample. While there are hints of different factors operating across the denominations, the sample size in most denominations (except Baptists and perhaps Anglicans) is too small at this stage.

(Since this article has no date, I am uncertain as to whether this request is still timely. PLS) Rev. Croucher does make this request: If you are an ex-pastor of a parish (whether in some other ministry or secular employment) your help in completing a questionnaire would be very much appreciated. If you are able to help please contact:

Rev. Dr. Rowland Croucher 7 Bangor Court, Heathmont, Victoria, Australia 3135

© John Mark Ministries. Articles may be reproduced in any medium, without applying for permission (provided they are unedited, and retain the original author/copyright information – and perhaps a reference to this website :-)!

Click here to visit John Mark Ministries at http://jmm.aaa.net.au/

PS from PLS: For those who have experienced pastor burnout, for those of you define yourselves as pastors leaving ministry, seeking someone to listen is a necessary step to take. And in your seeking, I am convinced that immediately seeking pastor employment opportunities may not be the wisest approach. You need time for inner healing and God’s redirection to occur.

Until you are ready for ministry employment, let me suggest you get support by visiting a website dedicated to helping Wounded Shepherds.

 

 

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