By the Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry
The Great Resignation continues! According to NPR, last November a whopping 3% of the American work force resigned from their jobs. 1 Unemployment remains low, the number of open jobs high, and all across the country, businesses are finding it difficult to staff to full capacity. Even around the Presbytery, some Music Director searches are continuing because suitable candidates aren’t available. Several churches are seeking either interim or permanent installed pastors. Are you wondering how the Great Resignation might affect your church? The Commission on Ministry is wondering too!
The Washington Post published a recent article on how many pastors are leaving their churches. Entitled The first Christmas as a layperson: Burned out by the pandemic, many clergy quit in the past year 2, the article chronicled former pastors in their new jobs, and how different Christmas was outside of the pastoral role. Citing the Barna statistic that 38% of Protestant clergy have considered quitting ministry in the past year, the Post questions if this is a time of crisis for American clergy.
“Amid fights about masks and vaccine mandates, to how far religious leaders can go in expressing political views that might alienate some of their followers, to whether Zoom creates or stifles spiritual community, pastoral burnout has been high.”
Pastors, who place a high value on relationships, are finding it hard to care for people during the pandemic, while also keeping them safe. Many are questioning their purpose and wondering how they can lead a church divided over politics to accomplish positive things in the world, let alone be leaders on issues like racism and being good neighbors. Granted, we don’t know how many pastors pre-pandemic regularly considered leaving ministry, but this statistic still seems significant.
The impact of these forces on the church is real. The church is supposed to be oriented towards meeting our purpose of serving Christ in the world. Yet some of us have found it difficult during the pandemic to figure out how to continue vital ministries. Perhaps we don’t consider how this change of purpose and mission affects our staff, and mostly importantly our pastors. A significant part of a pastor’s call isn’t about the money; it’s about the relationships with the congregation and about the mission which can happen through the work of the church. It’s about communicating the love and justice of Jesus Christ to communities and the world. Yet those things have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
If you are a church with a pastor, with full staff positions, congratulations! If you are a church missing a pastor or some of your staff, you know how hard it is to find people to hire or a pastor to call right now. The Commission on Ministry is especially interested in helping all of our churches care for and retain our pastors and staff in this challenging time.
Some secular employers are working hard to retain their current employees by making changes to affect their employee satisfaction and happiness in positive directions. You might think it’s all about higher wages and more benefits that cost the church’s bottom line, but it’s not. Daniel Goleman, author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence and frequent contributor to Korn Ferry, says in a recent article that some of the best companies are having success with nontraditional measures, like emphasizing purpose. 3
Nationwide started a Social Justice Task Force, Goleman reports, giving employees opportunities to help Nationwide find effective ways to fight racism and promote social justice. This accomplishes a second purpose of helping employees feel like they are able to take action on something which matters to them. It’s part of a ‘giving back’ movement across companies; The Great Place to Work Institute found in a recent survey that employees felt 15.6 times better about their workplace when their companies found ways to give back over the past few years. Goleman goes on to report that OhioHealth (a health care system) asked various departments within their system to adopt the frontline staff units in their hospitals and care for them. This included notes of encouragement, food, small gifts, and public thank yous. How do we care for our ‘frontline’ workers? How do we take care of the pastors and staff who have spent so much time and energy over the years caring for us? How can we help our congregations see that our divisions, complaints, and challenges are causing pastors and staff to consider leaving their jobs for an uncertain future instead of continuing to lead and nurture us? How can we create a more positive climate that helps the church reclaim its mission and lead into the future?
A recent article from Christianity Today suggests that millennials and others see a clear road for the church to take leadership in our society in meaningful ways 4, but we can’t do it if we’re not starting with a good foundation built on solid relationships with our pastors, staff, and congregations. Stay tuned – the Commission on Ministry and the Commission on Spiritual Leader Development are working together to provide a short webinar on tips for pastor and staff retention and building a positive work climate, facilitated by a panel of church leaders. It will be held on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at 7 pm.
1 NPR’s Morning Economic Report on Tuesday, January 11, 2022
2 The Washington Post, December 24, 2021, by Michelle Boorstein.
3 “The Secret to Happier Employees” by Daniel Goleman. Published on www.kornferry.com January, 2022.
4 “4 Stats that Will Change the Way You Pastor”, www.christianitytoday.com, July 12, 2021.