I made multiple attempts to write this introduction: some quirky, some heartfelt, some funny. But here’s the bottom line: I was a pastor of a church, and I was asked to resign.
That is a difficult sentence to type. I wasn’t blindsided by the deacons’ request, since I had seen some signs, but I was in no way prepared for the aftermath of that meeting.
I want to share what I learned in the last year and a half.
1. With your wife, determine if you need to take a break from ministry. Getting another job in a church takes a while, so you’ll probably be forced to take a break of some kind. But maybe your family has been hurt badly by those they have served, and they need to take a break. Listen to them, their voice is important.
2. If your church provided a parsonage like mine did, you’ll need to find a place to live and work, even if it’s temporary. This often means sucking up your pride and moving in with your parents or in-laws. In my case, I saw God work in incredible ways to provide for my family. It was scary in the moment, but I can look back on it and see how God moved and took care of us.
3. You need to utilize the network of pastors and friends you have already built. You need to email, call, text and have lunch with as many people as you can. Some will provide leads to a potential job and with others you can air all your frustrations – and both of those are equally important.
4. You need to keep attending church. There will be a huge temptation for you and your family to stop going to church. Trust me, I felt that. Find a church that you and your family can attend where you will be anonymous, and you can sit under another pastor and heal. I sat down with the pastor of the church we joined and told them our story, and he and his wife have been so encouraging to my whole family. it is truly healing to sit and not serve for a season.
5. You, and probably your wife, need to seek counseling. We started it very quickly and stayed with it for a long time. You will be feeling so many emotions and you won’t know how to deal with them. Having a professional counselor guide you along your journey will help you heal. If you don’t know where to start, ask one of your mentors or utilize the counseling ministries at a larger church.
6. You need to seek a professional who works with pastors who have been fired or forced to resign. I highly recommend Pastor’s Hope Network. They were incredible to work with and helped me translate my ministry resume to a “civilian” one, not to mention giving me more contacts that eventually led me to the job I have now.
7. When looking for a job, remember that having a job in ministry is not just for serving in churches. There are plenty of non-profits to work at and people to serve. I now serve as a hospice chaplain. Every day I drive around and talk about Jesus everywhere I go. It is unbelievably rewarding to simply serve the kingdom in the trenches and minister to families during a tough time.
8. Finally, take your time. I was in such a rush to start healing that it was impeding my growth. Slow down, don’t rush God or take a position you aren’t ready for yet. One of the best pieces of advice I got from wise friends was to take a break from ministry for a year or two. I couldn’t even fathom that when they told me, but they were right. My whole family needed this time.
Pastor, I hope you’re never in the position I was in. But if you find yourself unemployed, learn from my journey. Take care of your family, find a church to heal in and, if you need someone to talk with, reach out.
You’re not alone. I promise you, it can get better.
Published August 1, 2023