A new survey conducted by Arizona-based Ellison Research finds most pastors who have moved to take a different church say they did so for reasons other than a clear calling from God.
The Ellison Research study found the average American minister has held a paid job in ministry for 19 years and has spent an average of 15.6 of those years as senior pastor of one or more churches.
According to the survey, the typical minister has been the senior pastor at three different churches during his or her career.
Common reasons pastors gave for changing jobs included getting promoted to a higher position, such as from an associate pastor at one church to the senior pastor of another church (20 percent); wanting to pastor a larger church (16 percent); being transferred by their denomination (15 percent); and leaving to start a new church (15 percent). And many pastors said they moved to another church because of a desire to serve in a different part of the country (27 percent).
Ellison Research president Ron Sellers says only a small minority of pastors said they moved to another church primarily because of God's will. "Pastors are not saying that they are ignoring what God wants for them and doing whatever they want," he explains. "What we are seeing is that only 12 percent of them simply said the primary reason they moved was that God wanted them in a different place. But, at the same time, it really is a difficult balance between ministry and career."
The survey also noted some denominational trends among pastors who left one church to go to another. "One of the things that we saw is Lutherans were by and large the type of denominational group that changed jobs most frequently simply because they wanted to serve in a different type of community," Sellers points out. "And Methodists changed jobs largely because their denomination transferred them from one [church] to another."
On the other hand, the researcher notes, "Southern Baptists were twice as likely as average to change jobs simply because they had heard God's call and felt God's leading to move to a different church."
The survey also found that Southern Baptist ministers are more likely than average to have held multiple positions over their years in the ministry.
The survey on why pastors change jobs is being published in the September/October issue of Facts and Trends magazine, which is published bi-monthly by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Ellison Research (www.ellisonresearch.com)
LifeWay Christian Resources (www.lifeway.com)