I’ve spent a considerable amount of time this past fall visiting with pastors and ministry leaders throughout our constituencies.

My friends, there’s trouble.

When Barna released stats earlier this year that 30% of clergy are likely to leave ministry before this pandemic is over, I confess, I was skeptical. I thought it was an alarmist overstatement. “Maybe in America,” I said. “Not here.”

After engaging with ministry leaders in my limited circles in the past few weeks, I not only became a believer in those stats but I began to say that I fear they might be about 10% low. My hunch, based on limited engagement with Christian leaders, is being corroborated by new data from Barna.

You can hear more in the podcast from Carey Nieuwhoff and Barna president, David Kinneman.

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Before COVID, we were already watching a slow-motion leadership crisis occur as we saw the predictable departure of baby boomers from the workforce. Now, COVID is creating an even more urgent reality. Dealing with COVID, polarizing politics, and competing ideologies has left our leaders exhausted. Conversation after conversation, leaders are telling me they feel abandoned, often unsupported, and alone.

 

This is a very tough place for a leader to be.
Candles burning out
So what can we do about it? A few things come immediately to mind:

1. Pray for your leaders.

Yes, even if you don’t agree with how they respond to a particular political position or how they’re handling masking or vaccines. Take a second to empathize that however passionately you feel about these issues, your leader has someone equally and passionately shouting (or emailing or texting or otherwise social-media blasting) at them in the other ear. Our leaders feel they can’t win, and if you can’t have a little empathy for them, they’re right.

2. Do something practical and kind for your leaders.

The same criteria as above applies here. In fact, if you’re on the opposite end of spectrum about things as your leader, then do something to bless them all the more. Jesus commanded us to pray for and bless our enemies. We should do all the more to care for those who have been called to care for us. And do all of this quietly, or while acknowledging that even though you may not see eye-to-eye on certain things, you just want to bless your leaders. Do NOT use this as an opportunity to share your views on these matters once again. Your leaders know enough already, and it just kills everything good about what you’re doing if you use this as an opportunity to platform.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, NIV)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… (Matthew 5:44, NIV)

3. Start planning ahead and investing in the future.

Our current leaders aren’t meant to be the end of the line. In your circles, do you see potential or budding Christian leaders on the horizon? They definitely need some encouragement to step out in this current moment! Be that encouraging voice. Tell them they CAN do this! Maybe even offer to help them financially to take a course or to start a program at Bible college or seminary. And follow steps one and two above so they don’t see Christian leadership as something terrible to fear!

We may be entering desperate times for continuing good, godly, and competent Christian leadership, but I believe firmly we are in God’s times, and that you and I are among the most important resources God wants to use right now!

Jeromey Martini, President