stained glass reflection on empty church pews
Some 40% of pastors report wanting to leave church leadership.

It’s no secret that traditional churches have had a rough couple of years. Pre-COVID, church attendance was already on the decline, as older, more religious generations died off and younger people are increasingly rejecting the church

But the COVID pandemic – which saw many churches shutter their doors for the better part of a year – accelerated the trend greatly.

With churches forced into the world of digital worship almost overnight, pastors went from faith leaders to IT professionals, a role many were woefully unprepared for. Tack on dwindling church attendance and congregations split down the middle politically on everything from masks to vaccines, and you’ve got a recipe for pastoral burnout.

Some two-thirds of clergy stated that 2020 was their hardest year professionally.

Now, as the world reopens, many faith leaders are saying they’ve had enough. Are we about to see a massive percentage of clergy seek out greener employment pastures elsewhere?

The Great Resignation

The post-COVID phenomenon known as "the Great Resignation" has seen millions of Americans voluntarily leave their jobs, citing everything from stagnating wages, to workplace safety, to general job dissatisfaction.

And, if recent research is to be believed, the pulpit is not exempt from this movement. 

A Barna poll conducted in October 2021 found that nearly 40% of Protestant pastors in the United States seriously considered quitting the ministry in the previous year. Another poll conducted that same year by Hartford Institute for Religion Research had nearly identical results. 

The results are alarming, to say the least. But those in the trenches – er, pews – say they shouldn’t be surprising.

In a word, you could sum up the feelings of America’s pastors in a single word: exhaustion.  

This Too Shall Pass?

The Reverend Eric Atcheson penned an enlightening Twitter thread on the subject that has since been widely shared. He explained the serious challenges facing clergy today – and why so many of them are seriously considering leaving the church altogether.

“Overnight, clergy had to also become professional IT techs as our churches—many of which had fiercely resisted technology to that point—were forced into the world of online worship,”  he explained. “Over the course of weeks, clergy had to become public health experts to safely lead our churches… Over the course of months, clergy had to become the mask police and social distancing enforcers.”

The thread paints a firsthand portrait of church leadership at the breaking point. Suddenly thrust into the world of digital worship almost overnight, forced to balance a congregation with diverse opinions on COVID, masks, and vaccines, all while trying to meet the spiritual needs of a dwindling church audience.

Many of the replies from fellow clergy members indicate that Atcheson speaks for an exhausted cohort that feels the same way. 

That 40% of pastors are seriously considering new lines of work is certainly an eyebrow-raising statistic. What would happen to houses of worship if 4 in 10 clergy members disappeared overnight? 

However, that scenario remains unlikely. Other research shows that clergy, in particular, are highly resilient – they routinely rank higher than average in polls measuring mental health, fulfillment, and overall satisfaction with life.

Only time will tell just how impactful the Great Resignation will be on churches.

What is your reaction?

31 comments

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    Yet the amount of pagan priests/priestesses is on the rise. People must be waking up to the inherent evil of Christianity.

    1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      I left Holy Mother Church and Christianity in March 1975. After a 13 year search, found a modern revival of the pre-Christian beliefs and practices of my northwestern European ancestors.

      At least once a week I meet a Heathen or Pagan who is new to me, am a cashier at Lowe's. Folks notice the Mjolnir pendant I wear every day.

  1. Timothy Newell's Avatar Timothy Newell

    I feel much happier on social media sharing my time with other Christians anyway. More ministers should go viral. God forgive me, but I can't stand going to church anyway with other folks who glare and stare and gripe at me because I don't stand and raise my arms up like a phony because that's what they all feel they have to do. If I can't freely worship the way I want, then I'll get much more out of Daystar and TBN--then if I feel like raising my arms, I can do so without anybody but the Lord watching. I'm not hearing good old-fashioned hymns anymore either. If I want to hear songs I can hear on K-LOVE, I'll stay home and listen to K-LOVE on my radio. So church attendance going down doesn't upset me at all because I can understand why people aren't going besides using the pandemic as an excuse. It's time somebody addressed the problem with other Christians and how they seem to get in the way of freedom when it comes to worshipping. .

  1. Jason LaBarre's Avatar Jason LaBarre

    Most younger generations believe more in Harry Potter than God and Jesus.
    Most older generations that do believe in God and Jesus, are having trouble finding a good church to worship at. Yes the pandemic did put a damper on all things. But also now with people being shot in church while worshipping. It is getting ridiculous.

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      That’s because Harry Potter makes people feel better than Jesus, is easier to read, and does’t have any mass killings, rapes or slavery. Just think maybe years from now Harry Potter books will have replaced the Bible, and Harry will be as real to people as Jesus and God once was.

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      But let’s face it, Harry Potter is a far better mythical option, especially for children, as there is no threat of Hell if you don’t believe in Harry Potter 🤭

      🦁❤️

    3. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

      It goes a lot further than that. People are seeing life happens regardless of religion or the lack there of. We all have to deal with troubles and the church doesn't help. Sure, sometimes it can lend some moral support but that doesn't do much when your children are starving or you are still at risk of ending up homeless. Add to that too many churches preach politics or hatred for those who are different and people are just not interested anymore. If they want those things all they need to do is go out on the streets or turn on the TV. People are learning they are perfectly capable of learning about the bible and communing with God without the church. Add to that more churches shun anything outside of what that particular church teaches. Many people are literally "cold shouldered" right out of the church. At least with Harry Potter it's about the love and support of friends to get through unusually hard times.

  1. Jonathan MacLean Lambie's Avatar Jonathan MacLean Lambie

    Start of 2020; I died and came back. On regaining consciousness I found myself in the driveway fitting and bleeding and in extreme pain. There was no medical explanation found; I did however have a double step break to my left clavicle. I felt like I had been hit by a lightning bolt. The left clavicle is also called the Jupiter. This was in January 23rd, the same evening as the pandemic was recognised as arriving in Canada and the flights incoming began to be redirected from the main airport.

    I had been in resident in Canada for many years and in what I perceived to be a happy marriage. About a month into my injuries I told my wife I was going to visit my son in Scotland for a few months, it’s not like I could do much outside of recover anyways, she said it would be a one way and that was the end of that.

    My intention was to get to Campbeltown, (which is fairly remote and in Scotland), arriving the 1st of April, the flight was brought forward to March 15th. I arrived after those years with less than I had arrived with some personal belongings in a case and bags, my arm still strapped into a sling. The arrival was at Gatwick outside of London just as things began to lock down. I actually used my clergy card to bypass Police and security at the railway station as now travel was only available for essential reasons.

    My destination was a long way off I was in pain and had no real idea of where I was going next as I was certain I was not up to travelling the length of the country. Serendipity called in the way of a distant cousin I had not actually met and she asked where I was, thankfully I stayed there for a little over a week. Things continued to close down, as further restrictions kicked in. I knew I had to make a move to get to Scotland and ideally my son.

    I set off again got to Glasgow only to discover I could not make the final 150 miles by coach as the country entered full lockdown.

    I was by now penniless and homeless and in effect on the streets. It struck me quickly that some of the same homeless people on the streets of Glasgow were the same ones who I recalled from years before when I commuted to and from the city for work. The police were on patrol hassling the homeless that due to the lockdown they could not be out and about but must find a hostel or accommodation.

    I tried churches, the doors were locked, no one answered a phone. And while I appreciate that the government had put a stop to religious services there was no succour to be found in the diversity of the church.

    This is when you realise what a racket they are.

    Thankfully I had served in the military as such I am a veteran and I found a charity in the opposite direction from where I wanted to be, they gave me somewhere to stay for the next few months. It was not easy not was it pleasant however truly beggars can’t be choosers.

    I know this is a long ramble but I have not really had an opportunity to express; I will cut it short and say the churches no matter their denomination nor by and large any of the alternatives that one would expect to show care and charity for those in need at the most trying of times were simply not there, their doors were barred.

    Why would anyone expect the public to reciprocate their own service to such organisations that were so so quick to lock up and hide!

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Well said.

  1. Dave J's Avatar Dave J

    I think a shakeup of this magnitude will be a good thing going forward, but very painful in the short term. A lot of smaller churches who have lost membership will be forced to realize that they need to combine with other churches to survive. This will stop the dilution that has led to many churches demise.

    The big megachurches with the "Prosperity Preaching" will not have the pastors leaving as they would not want to give up on the fleecing of their flocks. That's kind of a shame.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    I don't belong to any Church but if I did .I would never resign

  1. Dave J's Avatar Dave J

    Comment removed by user.

  1. Reverend Bob's Avatar Reverend Bob

    The Great Reset has effected The Great Resignation. Central world government is in the process of squeezing religion, small business, media, finance, “climate change” and everything formerly known as independent into a digital algorithm that rewards compliance but cancels counter opinions, branding them as thought terrorism. Amazingly enough, we “citizens” support the Great Reset simply by using our personal digital devices, Cute names like Siri or Alexa help us through our confusing lives, offering us simple stories written for for entertainment or so-called news. A handful of people control it all. We seem to be in the end stages of transition to the Great Reset. On the other hand, my dog loves me and is thankful for my comforting company. When this life cycle is through for me, I may or may not be something, somewhere else…And my soul? Okay…

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    Comment removed by user.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    She said to the devil, “Is there… is there no heaven?”

    Once again silence enveloped us. As his smile finally fell the ringing I had felt coming out of the vault was still there and seemed to accentuate his every move. Finally, he wagged his finger at me before turning his head and grinning.

    “I like you!” He took a step towards me but stopped after he saw me flinch. Instead, he returned to his seat. “Nothing gets passed you does it? Maybe when you get back we can talk about becoming a scribe.” He let out a deep sigh as his eyes went misty. “Have you ever heard of my greatest trick?”

    Now it was her turn to furrow my brow. “You mean making the world think you didn’t exist?” With a clap of his hands and a reflexive startled jump from me, he broke into a laugh.

    “Yes! That one.” He said still chuckling. “That wild misconception. You people were so close too! I didn’t need to make you think I didn’t exist, you were all so eager to do that yourselves. No. The greatest trick I ever pulled was making you think he would die for you. I mean think about it, the all-knowing all watching heavenly father who made you of dust and bone and kicked you out for what? Eating an apple that he made and placed almost a literal arms reach away from you? Then the same guy goes about killing your entire civilization almost twice over, except maybe one or two of you on a raft full of cat pee, because what? Because he didn’t like the way you boogied down in Babylon? And then the same-”

    He was full-blown laughing now. Almost doubled over with delight at every word. Like it was a joke so funny he couldn’t even tell it without struggling to chuckle himself.

    “-Then the same guy comes down and says ‘Hey! I love you now!’ and even you guys didn’t buy it! Well, I have to hand it to you there, he wasn’t the same guy. That little rascal was none other than yours truly. See while he was entitled to do whatever he wanted so was I. At least I was the day he threw me out of that nice little gated community. I just… well, I did it. He already hated you from the day you had eaten from the fruit of the loom, I just made it easier. I wrote that nice little self-help book and let the rest happen naturally. I didn’t expect the fame but it was a nice little surprise, although actually helping people became a bit annoying. I can see why he chose never to do it in the first place.”

    He leaned in closer to her, she could see him salivating like a dog to a treat with every phrase. “I gave you guys clues! Why would an all-loving deity mess with a fig tree and terrorize a village with, you’ll love this, actual demons who killed their pigs? I thought for sure that gave me away. No, all you people were so desperate to be loved that you just let slide. Desperate for the love he never told you how to earn. When I was crucified I just went home and let you come to me.” He sat back with the most satisfied expression I had ever seen. “That was the greatest trick I ever pulled.” Post Reply

  1. Diane Minna LaFave's Avatar Diane Minna LaFave

    The Church was forced into digital services? Government had no Right to force closings [ a bunch of cowards ]. It has been proven the covid wasn't as bad as a normal cold or flu. The masks don't work . God provides what we need for immunity ; Vitamin D3, zinc, C . Fresh lemon squeezed in water makes for an alkaline environment . No virus [ nor most cancers ] can survive in a highly alkaline body. If you don't believe me research it . That's how I found out. So many have turned away from organized religion because the leaders don't have Faith. Being a Pastor is a Calling , not a "job ". If you are a Christian then teach the New Testament. Teach love, forgiveness, and WWJD. Teach by example . People need GOD in their lives but found Church people judgmental, and hypocritical . God help us !

    1. Lady Celynia's Avatar Lady Celynia

      The actual science and peer-reviewed studies have shown that it is virtually impossible to change the blood ph levels. The kidneys flush all that out into the urine which is why urine ph may rise a bit after eating lemons, but the blood ph doesn’t. You are offering medical advice which is scientifically inaccurate could be dangerous to certain individuals. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23551968/

  1. Mark Hannon's Avatar Mark Hannon

    I walked out of my last church service in August of 2019. The minister was trying to get the service started while several people continued to gather around a table set up for a raffle. I called out that we were running late already and would everyone please sit down. The women had tried to change the bulletin that I worked on for 3 weeks but changed it back to my bulletin on Saturday night because I brought it to the minister's attention. There was still so little concern for the service after the first hymn that I just shut off my keyboard and walked out. It was the final straw. They still don't have an organist.

    1. Xolo Ravinder Bradford-Blackmore's Avatar Xolo Ravinder Bradford-Blackmore

      I know how you feel. I had similar trouble in our C of E Anglican church in the uk were i am the Verger and training for ordination. Changing the services at the last 30 mins. So i just took of my cassock and walked out and quit college.

    2. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Your experience sounds so familiar to why other people have left the church and religion. They are finding salvation in a Godless life.

  1. Donald J Rothschild Jr's Avatar Donald J Rothschild Jr

    Not only are clergy leaving, a great many members are leaving their churches. Between the Roman Catholic Church having scandal after scandal with pedophiles, clergy literally beating religion into people, TV Evangelical hustlers fleecing the congregation, etc. it’s no wonder the so called great religions of the world are getting smaller and smaller. People are finally realizing that organized religions ARE the problem.

    1. James Grainger's Avatar James Grainger

      Amen, right on the money

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    40% leaving? And just WHERE did he get these figures? From a cracker jack box or an anti religious source?

    1. Reverend Kurt's Avatar Reverend Kurt

      Best place for statistics, i find is to go to governments, Industry associations and places like UNESCO, WHO. UN , universities and so on. I cannot vouch for their religious ideologies of their thousands of authors and statisticians, but before throwing stones, I check with these sources first. Try it sometime, Daniel surprise yourself.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        And why would anyone believe UNESCO or the WHO or the UN when they have all been proved so terribly wrong before and since?

        Or are you now saying that they are all correct when its their own figures that I used to show that the whole basis of this thread is utter poppycock?

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    WHY ARE YOU NOT SCREAMING and BE ACHIN about PASTIORS THAT PREACH ANARCHY and TREASON AGAINST THE US of A, EXAMPLE THE COMING of tRUMP, THE EVANGELISTA A HOs SCREAMING WAR AGAINST THIS NATION ON T V ?????????????????????

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    Mr. J M LAMBIE, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH to YOUR KNOWLEDGE MAY HAVE HELPED A FEW, I HAVE SEEN and READ MUCH ADO to THE CONTRARY EVEN THOUGH it is WELL HIDDEN, SO for ME YOUR LONG RAMBLE is JUST THAT UNPROVEN B S ! ***SHOW ME !

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    GOD HAS N E V E R BEEN ON THIS EARTH, WE ALL HAVE A MENTAL FIXATION of OUR OWN GODs and if OUR GOD is A GOOD GOD THEN WHY WOULD WE WANT to SAY * GODBYE * SAY GOODBYE to BAD and CORRUPT POLITICOS and PEOPLE in GENERAL, GOD is GOOD, GOD is GREAT, YEAH WHEN GOD DOES GOOD and GREAT FEATs NOT PUNISHMENTS in THE NAME of SAME FAME !!!

  1. Ronaldo's Avatar Ronaldo

    Reverend Atcheson said in a tweet that “overnight, clergy had to also become professional IT techs...", but as a churched IT professional, I have never met a member of the clergy that suddenly got paid to do IT work. All the pastors at every church with which I associated asked the members of their congregation for IT assistance. As a volunteer, I headed up the entire technical department at the church I last attended, including computers, the server, the sound system, lighting, and video, rather than one of our pastors being put in charge.
    It is possible that many pastors are stepping down because too many American "Christians" are not behaving as Christians, so the pastors have grown weary of preaching an unheard and unheeded message. When this nation professed to be 75% Christian, we watched as prayer was removed from our schools, and the Ten Commandments was removed from our courthouses. If three-quarters of our population opposed those actions, they would not have happened.

  1. Minister Raydeen's Avatar Minister Raydeen

    Jesus said, There will be MANY false prophets, Bottom Line

  1. John Peter Dugan's Avatar John Peter Dugan

    Ill take that position I think it would be fun...............

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