Churches that are interested in growth can help energize pastors instead of exhaust them with some simple steps

Church leaders and pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. A recent report by Vanderbloemen Search Group and Vanderbloemen Academy found that 57% of pastors are considering resigning, up from 45% pre-pandemic (Bird, 2022). Many pastors experience high stress, frustration, loneliness, and burnout, causing high turnover in church staff roles. When pastors frequently resign, it becomes difficult for churches to maintain consistency, community, and forward momentum.

Why Do So Many Pastors Burn Out?

Research points to several key drivers of pastoral burnout (Dash, 2022). Most pastors work over 50 hours per week, juggling preparations for preaching, counseling, administration, events, and other demands. Ministry is also an “always on” profession, contributing to emotional exhaustion and lack of restorative boundaries.

Pastors often feel pressure to be constantly available to congregants, even during off-hours. They also receive frequent criticism when members disagree with their decisions, vision, or teaching style, leading to demoralization.

Financial stress intensifies burnout risk as many pastors struggle to access affordable healthcare, retirement savings, and fair compensation for their workload relative to secular roles (Bird, 2022). However, isolation and lack of meaningful personal connections contribute most significantly to pastoral attrition rates.

The Costs of Losing Pastors

When exhausted pastors resign, substantial costs reverberate through their former church (Lifeway Research, 2022). The church must manage all ministries and operations during the transitional period between pastors, which often spans 6-12 months.

Hiring a new pastor requires immense time and financial investment. Members also commonly feel disappointment, confusion, or dissatisfaction during leadership changes, causing some to leave. If repeated pastoral turnover continues, churches often shrink as people seek more stable communities.

The remaining staff and leaders must take on extra duties, increasing the risk of further burnout. In sum, losing pastors early devastates church health and sustainability.

Building Sustainable Leadership from Within

One promising solution is intentionally building leadership pipelines within congregations (Reed, 2022). Leadership pipelines are human resource systems focused on continually identifying, developing, and empowering emerging leaders from existing church members.

As more people become leaders, responsibilities can shift away from solely the pastors. Pastors can then devote their limited time toward the highest-impact roles instead of getting overburdened and burning out.

Where To Start

Churches should begin by taking stock of what additional leadership roles could most benefit their congregation, such as small group leaders, greeters, worship volunteers, outreach coordinators, lay counselors, events teams, and more (Thoman, 2023).

Next, they can prayerfully identify and personally invite members who exhibit traits like responsibility, care for people, passion, and integrity to step into those roles. It is key to provide those emerging leaders with proper training for their duties, regular check-ins of support, and community with fellow leaders so they feel equipped and valued.

Over time, evaluating ongoing needs and developing members into those roles builds sustainable church leadership.

Commit to Steady Progress

Launching a comprehensive leadership pipeline system may seem daunting initially. The key is focusing on steady, incremental growth rather than fast results (Lifeway Research, 2022). For example, a church might start by raising up 3 new small group leaders every 6 months from existing members. Over 2 years, they will have equipped over 10 new leaders to support their community.

Once the basic structure is established, churches can progressively expand the pipeline’s scale and reach. But beginning with a commitment to develop leaders from within is the crucial starting point.

Long-Term Revitalization

Constructing robust leadership pipelines requires strategic patience and investment. But it leads to immense dividends for both pastor wellness and church vitality over the long run (Barna Group, 2021). As more members share ministry responsibilities, pastors experience less isolation and burnout risk. Members also grow in their spiritual gifts, skills, and sense of ownership.

Overall church health improves through expanded capacity, closer connections, and stable leadership for the years ahead. Though challenging, dedicating ourselves to develop leaders from within our pews provides critical keys to reducing pastoral attrition and strengthening the church for future generations.


Barna Group. (2021). Leadership pipelines: Growing church leaders from within.

Bird, W. (2022). 57% of pastors considering quitting, highest number recorded in 35 years. Vanderbloemen.

Dash, J. (2022). 4 causes and solutions for pastoral burnout. Church Answers.

Lifeway Research. (2022). Pastors’ workload and work-life balance.

Reed, R. (2022). Why you should build a leadership pipeline in 2022. Discover Church Planting.

Thoman, R. (2023). 5 steps to build a leadership pipeline. Outreach Magazine.

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