We all know someone who quit his or her job unexpectedly. Whether this is in a corporate environment or the ministry, employees often provide warning signs that lead to a sudden decision to quit their job.
It is said that hindsight is always 20/20. This is also true when reflecting on a great pastor who suddenly calls it quits. Church ministry teams need to be aware of warning signs so the ministry can intervene when possible and be prepared for a transition if necessary.
10 Warning Signs a Pastor Is Ready To Step Down
1. Change in Attitude
All of us love the upbeat pastor who encourages us at every encounter. However, when a pastor changes their attitude, and becomes more of a cynic than an encourager, it might be time to pay attention. We all have bad days but when a change in attitude becomes a pattern of behavior, someone should strike up a conversation.
2. Productivity Wanes
A true measure of employee satisfaction is productivity levels. Employees perform at their best when they feel valued and contribute to the success of the organization. Moreover, in the world of ministry, this translates into fulfilling a call on their life.
When a pastor in a leadership position ceases to be productive, it can be a telltale sign of trouble. Your church should have productivity measures, and if your pastor has fallen behind, there may be something more to it than his ability to get the job done.
3. Laughter has Ceased
Most people go into ministry because they believe in the life-changing message of the bible and the joy it can bring to even the most difficult lives. The bible says “….the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. When a pastor stops laughing and loses his joy, something is going on.
4. Lack Motivation
Internal motivation is what drives us all. Others cannot motivate us without our own internal passion for what we do. Pastors in particular need inspiration to get the job done. Pay attention to the pastor’s enthusiasm and look for patterns of behavior changes.
5. Short Tempered
Everyone loses his or her temper occasionally but when an otherwise mild mannered person pops off at every little situation, it is typically a symptom of something else. Make note of changes in how the pastor responds to internal conflict. Often times this is a manifestation of hidden frustration.
Apathy is when someone is indifferent and shows a lack of interest. What a pastor has become apathetic about things that he was once passionate about – he may be struggling.
7. Become Part of the Problem (rather than part of the solution)
Pastors solve problems. That is what they do. However, when a pastor becomes problematic and creates more strife, conflict and discord than helping to resolve issues, there may be something bigger going on.
Pastors are always on the move. A major part of their job is meeting with church members, committees and staff. Oftentimes these meetings are away from the church office. However, when a pastor disappears for long periods, without explanation, they may be spending time on non-ministry activities.
9. Withdraws from Conversation
We can all be distracted on occasion but watch for when a pastor ceases to take part in conversations. This can be in committee meetings, with other staff members or simply in general. Be attune to these patterns of changed behavior.
10. Lacks Accountability
Regardless of the position at the church, every employee needs to be accountable for their job. Pay attention to a pastor who has stopped being accountable for job responsibilities. Pastors set the example for accountability, and if staff sees them fall short, it can have a ripple effect throughout the entire ministry.
So your team has recognized some of these behaviors, what should they do? Here’s 4 things that might help your pastor get through this rough season:
Identify an Interceptor
Identify the person who has a relationship with the pastor and see if he can act as an interceptor and try to get the pastor to talk. Keep in mind that a person who has reached this level of frustration may have a lot internalized. It may be difficult to get them to talk initially but be prepared that if they do a whole host of issues may surface. Some issues may be significant – others may not.
Address the Issues
Unfortunately, it often takes an event like this for church leaders to acknowledge and address internal issues. Demonstrate a commitment to make improvements and that may be all that is needed to turn things around. However, do not make promises that you know you cannot keep.
Offer a Sabbatical
If the pastor has been with the church for a long period, and they are a valued member of the team, offer a sabbatical. A time away may allow the employee time to reflect, seek God’s direction and get clarity on next steps.
When someone gets to the point that they are manifesting many of the above symptoms, it is often too late to turn things around. However, if the team is aware of the problem and can speak openly with the pastor, the two parties can work out an agreeable transition. Negotiate with the pastor to hang around until an appropriate replacement is identified. In addition, if the pastor needs to find another job, use ministry networks and resources to help him.
No church wants to lose a great pastor. Church ministry teams should be aware of the challenges that come with working for a church and ensure that internal systems and processes support their efforts. Providing a healthy work environment, that seeks to resolve internal issues, is an important step to keeping employees committed and engaged.
However, there are times when these types of situations result in a God directed move. If that is the case, little can be done to keep the pastor. Work to maintain the relationship and send them on their way.