The great resignation plaguing our nation is reaching into churches on an alarming level.
New numbers released Tuesday from The Barna Group, the country's foremost researcher on religion, show that two out of five pastors nationwide are seriously thinking about quitting the ministry.
Now the pressure is on for the church to help these leaders from joining millions who are walking away from their jobs during the pandemic.
"We found a sub-group analysis that pastors in the ministry for 20 years or more were more likely to tell us they were considering quitting," said David Kinnaman, president and CEO of The Barna Group. "Also, younger pastors under 45 were the most likely to say they were considering quitting."
While studying the well-being of pastors, Barna Research found that 38 percent of pastors want to quit compared with 29 percent in January of 2021.
Also, church attendance has softened quite a bit since the pandemic started.
"During and after the pandemic, one-third of practicing Christians disengaged from their congregation – just sort of stopped showing up." Kinnaman said.
More than 4,000 churches closed in America in 2020. Over that same time, over 20,000 pastors left the ministry and 50 percent of current pastors say they would leave the ministry if they had another way of making a living.
"I think the long-term effect of this is going to be a stronger church, but probably a smaller church," Kinnaman said.
Dr. Dwayne Bond, pastor and counselor at Wellspring Church in Charlotte, North Carolina says resignations at the pulpit were awoken for several reasons.
The pandemic closed churches, which led to financial constraints for some. And continuing political strife over masks and vaccines are causing fragmentation for many congregations.
"I think pastors are experiencing an overwhelming sense of responsibility and an overwhelming sense of loneliness because they're pastoring people they don't even know online," Dr. Bond explained. "And there's so many different opinions. Everyone has an opinion, and it creates exhaustion and disunity."
Dr. Bond sees this season of suffering as an opportunity for the church to provide support and hope for those dedicated to feeding our spiritual lives.
"I think the church is doing what Jesus anticipated the church would do during affliction, which is thrive," Bond noted. "Yes, there are some that are indeed closing. The Kingdom of God is still being advanced. Churches are still being planted. Disciples are still being made and still being encouraged in their faith."
Despite the saddening statistics, Bond says he's seeing these things play out in real-time at Acts 29 Network, a global community of planting churches.
He went on to say that healing in the church begins with leaders such as elders or deacons. He also recommends teaming up with other churches to give pastors a break, adding that church leaders should never be ashamed for seeking counsel.
"Encouraging our people to love one another, serve one another, think their best, extend grace to one another. I think these things create an environment where a pastor wants to pastor," said Dr. Bond.