Online data indicates that about 1500 pastors are leaving the ministry each month. When I first saw those statistics I was shocked at the number. However, once we look more deeply into the data it is not as shocking as it first seemed.
The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches indicates that there are at least 600,000 ordained ministers in United States. Of course not all are serving in churches and that does change the numbers somewhat. As I understand it, this survey includes mainline denominations and other churches that completed the report. Many independent and non-denominational churches which are now a large and growing part of US church community are not included in this survey. So the numbers are likely higher than this estimate indicates. Since this is the best data we have at the moment, we can use it to get an idea of the impact of the ministers leaving vocational ministry.
Pastor Turnover Rate Comparison
The numbers indicate a turnover rate of 2.5 to 3% of pastors who are actually leaving the ministry. This rate is in line with many other industries and normal job turnover. In fact it’s actually better than many industries or services.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnovers Statistics (JOLTS) data shows an overall rate turnover rate for services industry staff varying between 2.9 to 3.7% since the beginning of 2013. Overall in the US, employment turnover is about 3.4%.
The Tragedy of Pastor Turnover
The real tragedy of this loss of talent is the extreme difficulty for vocational pastors to transition into other career paths. In the next few weeks, I will post a series of tips to assist pastors and ministers as they make career transition decisions.
In most cases, employers are not able to connect typical ministry duties and responsibilities with their company’s employment needs. Many employers either do not, or will not, take the time to understand the types of work that pastors and ministers do in the course of leading a congregation.
The current employment situation adds to the lack of understanding of ministry skill sets and experience. The glut of people seeking work complicates the challenge for ministers seeking suitable employment opportunities outside vocational ministry. Faced with hundreds of candidates and resumes for each job opening, employer’s gatekeepers are quick to scan and screen resumes with checklists in hand.
If a resume or application does not perfectly match the open position’s ideal candidate checklist, resumes are quickly put into the no interest pile. In an increasing number of cases, a computer and software screen online applications. That means no human interaction determines if a candidate is qualified for consideration and should be interviewed. Learning strategies to overcome this obstacle is crucial to ministers who seek a successful career transition.
Stay tuned for more…
In the meantime, we would love to hear your experience in making a successful career transition out of ministry!
Please leave your comment below. Your shared story might help a fellow transitioning minister find the position that is needed!