According to a recent study, American workers are leaving their jobs in droves. A record 4.5 million U.S. employees quit in the month of November alone, and those numbers seem to only be increasing into 2022. But these people aren’t up and leaving the workforce- they’re pursuing other jobs, for a variety of reasons. Though there are one thousand possible interpretations for this data, one thing is clear: the workforce is changing, and this is impacting every occupation, including ministries. As we continue on into a new year, recovering from a busy holiday season and continuing to navigate COVID spikes and variants, you may be considering your place within your organization and deciding whether you will join the millions of Americans seeking something different.
“It’s not you, it’s me”
Moving on from a job you’ve loved, especially one in ministry, can feel a lot like the end of a relationship. When you’ve spent time at a job that you felt a calling to like pastoral leadership and ministry, unless you feel God speak clearly to you about going elsewhere, it can be hard to decide to step away. Here are some signs to look out for in yourself that may help you determine if you should stick around or if it’s time to seek out new opportunities elsewhere.
1. You are staying primarily because you fear things will fall apart without you
If this is the case, whether because you have taken on too much responsibility or too much has been put on you, things need to change as soon as possible. A ministry built on one person is not a ministry that will last. So if you are feeling that things will fall apart without you, you either need to begin delegating responsibilities to others or ask others’ opinions and see whether things really are as dependent on you as you feel. Sometimes it takes a reality check to realize that we aren’t as critical as we think we are. Regardless, if the only thing keeping you around is obligation, it’s time to make some serious changes and begin succession planning.
2. You have been there for so long that you don’t know who you would be without this job
This is an easy trap to fall into, especially for Christians. When we put our entire identity into the ministry we are doing, rather than in Christ himself, we can easily fall into idolatry that leads us astray and warps our identities. This is especially true for pastors. You may think, “how can I just quit after all of the time, money, and emotional labor I devoted to getting where I am today?” Or rather, “who will I be if I am not Pastor, Teacher, Leader?” These questions are natural responses and are not necessarily indicative of idolatry. But if they are the only thing keeping you at a job, ministry or otherwise, or if it is incredibly difficult for you to consider being anywhere else, you need to do some serious reorienting and consider whether you need to step away.
3. You are simply unable to find joy in the work
The ultimate pursuit of a Believer is the glory of God, not happiness. And discontentment is a natural human emotion, as the broken world we are in is not what we were created for. No matter what role you play, you will always want something more, and you can always find things to be unhappy about. That is the nature of a sinful world. But at the same time, our God is a loving father who gives good gifts; He gives us the desires of our hearts not by granting wishes like a genie, but by aligning our desires with his. If you are seeking after the Lord and regularly asking him what his plan for you is, and you are still completely unable to find joy in your work, then maybe that is the Lord’s way of telling you that this no longer aligns with his desires for you. Do not run at the first sign of hardship, but rather listen carefully to the inclinations of the Holy Spirit who speaks through you.
At the end of the day, there are many valid reasons you may decide to leave a job in ministry or non-profit work and pursue a leadership transition. But ultimately, keep in mind that no job is permanent and continue seeking wisdom from the Lord, whose word is “a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path.” He will guide you in your next steps as you seek to faithfully obey him and his direction in your life.