Hard Times, Heavy Burdens, and the Great ResignationIt’s no secret that the past year and a half has been extraordinarily difficult. You’ve felt it. Whether it be COVID-19 lockdown, political and social turmoil, loss and grief, or economic meltdowns, it’s been tough!
Now, we find ourselves in the middle of the Great Resignation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. That’s not the end. Bankrate recently reported that more than half (55%) of the current workforce is actively seeking other employment.
Workers are feeling devalued in every sector of employment. Your pastor and church staff are no exception to this. While many may not post about it to social media, they feel like resigning, too. In fact, Barna reported earlier this year that nearly a third (29%) of pastors have “seriously considered quitting full-time ministry” in the past year.
One of the greatest joys in my role as general superintendent is getting to meet new ministers each week and worship with them at their churches. There are a few things I’ve heard repeatedly over the past several months.
1. “This pandemic has taken a toll.” Pastors have grieved alongside families and friends who have lost their lives. They’ve put in extra time to learn new technology for services and new protocols for doing life together. Even the most basic aspects of church life — baptism, laying on hands in prayer, funerals, house or hospital visits — have come with new sets of questions from people during the pandemic.
2. “I have fatigue from unmet expectations.” First it was “14 Days to Slow the Spread.” From there, it seems to some that they’ve crossed way too many mental milestones where they thought things would return to normal. When mask mandates came, many pastors were caught in the middle of ideological perspectives in their congregations. When vaccinations came, some of those ideological lines became even more pronounced.
3. “I’m disappointed or hurt by those who have not returned.” Many pastors held expectations that interruptions to services would be short term and that church life would return to normal within weeks. While they understand the concerns these attendees have, many ministers simply feel discouraged. They miss seeing the familiar faces of the ones they love in worship services. They feel disconnected from the spiritual development of the ones they have pastored for years.
4. “The criticisms seem to be more personal.” Political and social turmoil have combined with the stress of the pandemic to create radical polarization. The pointed criticism that has ensued, often fed by social media, has seemed personal to many ministers. If the church is complying or not complying with a mandate, the pastor is accused of heresy or apathy — often simultaneously by different factions. If the pastor speaks out or refrains from speaking out on a social issue, he or she is either accused of being cowardly or too activist.
5. “I’ve never felt more lonely.” This, perhaps, has been one of the uniquely tragic aspects of the past several months. Families have been forced to grieve loved ones in isolation. The peace and security that comes from community has been interrupted. This isn’t just related to the pandemic. As polarization has increased on social topics, people have drifted away from decades-long relationships, based on superficial disagreements.
Now more than ever, ministers need your encouragement. Let your pastor know he or she is in your prayers. Send an email or note to the missionaries you support. Let an evangelist know they are essential and that you haven’t forgotten them!
Now, to the ministers reading this, keep these things in mind:
1. God is for you. If He’s for you, nothing can stand against you (Romans 8:31)! In fact, in our times of weakness, we find that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).
2. Your ministry belongs to Him. In John 15:16, Jesus is sharing final thoughts with His disciples before they head to Gethsemane. He tells them, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you . . .” The One who knows you better than anyone chose you specifically. He’ll be faithful to that calling.
3. Faithfulness is an important metric for fruitfulness. Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep your hope centered in His soon return. In 2 Chronicles 26:5, we see a timeless truth about King Uzziah: “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”
4. Fatigue is fixable. It’s far too easy to become overwhelmed by negative possibilities of what lies ahead. Instead, God challenges us to, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The Bible doesn’t promise us quick fixes or instant solutions. What we do see is a reminder to, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (Galatians 6:9).
I can’t predict what twists and turns the future may hold, but I’m confident that God is in control (Colossians 1:17) and that He has empowered you and chosen you for this season (1 Thessalonians 1:4). I’m grateful for Assemblies of God pastors, missionaries, evangelists, educators, chaplains, leaders, and staff who are changing communities each day for the glory of God. We’re truly better because of you.