Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why Preachers Move

I’ve grown up in a minister’s home and I’ve been a minister all of my adult life and I’ve known many inisters. I can tell you why most of them have to leave churches.
Sometimes there’s a scandal, where the pastor slept with the organist, or stole money, or worse. I’ve known of at least two ministers who faked their deaths so they could just disappear. Sometimes it’s a happier circumstance where he is offered a bigger opportunity, or perhaps by some miracle, he or she gets to retire.

Mostly preachers leave because someone doesn’t like them. It’s always a vocal minority that gets a voice when the pastor has been at a church long enough to have hit a slump. Usually, that’s the third year.

Usually, the majority like the minister just fine but for the sake of peace they passively withdraw their support of him and hope he’ll just disappear like the two guys I mentioned above. So he picks up his belongings, pulls his wife and children out of their lives and hopefully finds someplace else to go. This has happened to me a couple of times and it’s happening again.

Was I right or wrong? Did I do well or poorly? It doesn’t matter. Someone wanted me gone and the congregation expects me to be a sacrificial lamb for the sake of their peace.

Am I a good man? Am I moral? Or did I practice evil? Again, it doesn’t really matter. Just as long as people stay comfortable.

Will this hurt my wife and children? Well that would be a shame, but when it comes down to it, they don’t care.

Perhaps there is something here that would explain why preachers self destruct. And perhaps it’s also a symptom of churches that just sort of hang on but never grow much.

It certainly explains why most preachers’ children never set foot inside a church building when they grow up--unless for some reason beyond my understanding they’re called into the ministry.


  1. Is it really true "most preachers’ children never set foot inside a church building when they grow up"? Wow!

    It's very sad. Have you considered teaching? Coaching basketball? Basket weaving? ~K

  2. K, I don't have any stats, but I know many preachers' children who hate what the church did to their families. Of course, this has goes back to the day's Aaron, Moses's brother, whose children would not follow his ways.

    Perhaps I should consider basket weaving. However, the fact is that, like others, I can't afford a career change at this time.

  3. I hope you do (very) well in your next post. If you want my 2 cents, I think any minister is sort of a Rorschach of the congregation's self-identity. When the chemistry goes sour, it means the congregations wants some outside force to change them or at least give them the illusion that they've changed. I see similar things happening with the church I attend. Our minister has been with us just over 7 years and when I served on the Board, the amount of grumbling was alarming. And yet, the minister he replaced was also grumbled about, usually for having an exact opposite set of characteristics and personality traits! I sense that our current guy has the inner strength to overcome all this. He has a very loyal following, which includes me and nearly everyone who's served on the Board and knows what it takes to really run a church. So celebrate your own unique gifts and enjoy sharing them with a group that appreciates them.

  4. Hi Vol-E (the artist formerly known at Volley).

    I'd never thought of the minister being compared to a congregation's Rorschach, but it makes sense. Thank you, as always for your two cents. Sounds like your minister's having a good run and doing a good job with people like you to offer support.

    My support in this church has always been lean, but I lost what little I had when the economy forced two fo them to move. And then my last biggest supporter just got wore down from the negative feedback.

    In my next place, I will spend time and energy bonding with people who can be of help to me. IN fact, I plan to light the place up.

  5. Hi, sorry to be late to the party (UK has had a boatload of holidays recently!). Just wanted to say that this reminded me strongly of the theory of the Scapegoat by Girard - "This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again." The idea of a Rorschach test for the congregation is a powerful one. Their own actions judge them.

  6. Sanityman, yes, I've heard you folks have had a reason or two to celebrate.

    Scapegoating is the term I keep coming to for this church. When I first arrived, they had their scapegoats picked out for me to go after. They were frustrated that I didn't go after them when they said "sic em." The scapegoating finally came around to me. No surprise there.