Pastors Fail? A Conversation with Taylor Mertins

Just four years ago it was reported,  “that 1500 pastors leave the ministry for good each month due to burnout or contention in their churches.” What is a pastor to do just five years in when he or she realizes there already exists lessons from failure?

Not Much Has Changed?

Thirty years ago this coming December I recall a denominational leader relaying to a group of seminary graduates that any given week 12 ministers take up new positions and 12 ministers resign. It was surprising to hear there were twenty-four staff changes any given week just in Oklahoma.

You may be sure the causes remain the same. They range from moral failure – adultery or solicitation – to relational failure either on the part of the minister, church members, or both. Moral failures get the most publicity. Relational failures end up as difficult to process.

Taylor Mertins and I were talking recently. He had invited me to join him on the Strangely Warmed podcast show. It is part of the stable of podcast shows hosted by Crackers & Grape Juice. Strangely Warmed features Taylor and a guest discussing the weekly Texts from the Revised Common Lectionary. We took up the Scriptures for Ash Wednesday.

As we were finishing up Taylor commented that he has plenty of failures to talk about in his short five years in full-time ministry. His comment led to this conversation.

Or Have They?

Lest Taylor comment on this post before I admit to it, let me quickly point out I am old enough to be Taylor’s Dad. That actually is what prompted me to get Taylor on for a conversation. When I was his age, we did not admit to failure. Conversations with other pastors centered around how well you could talk about the Three B’s – Budget, Buildings, Bottoms. Yes, it really was Butts. Those were the only measures that signified success. Given the fact that 70% of all churches run less than 100 in worship, still, that means lots of ministers live feeling like failures on those grounds.

Knowing that Taylor had not been caught up in moral failure, I was intrigued. How is it that a young minister openly talked about his sense of failure. Maybe, I thought, “He’s a millennial.”

Turns out over time some of the rest of us group up and realize how unhealthy it is to internalize what you deem a failure. Only by talking with trusted friends do you learn from those experiences. If a person does not have someone to talk with he or she will surely become a statistic, one of 1500 that leave the ministry every month never to return.

With Whom Do You Talk?

Just today a young friend texted to tell me about a significant frustration. I am always left hoping my replies help. What I will write here is that should you be in ministry with no one to talk about the sorts of failures Taylor and I consider, feel free to email me. Use the Contact form on the website and I would be glad to offer encouragement.

Why? Quite a few years ago, after I learned that internalizing what you cannot change is unhealthy, I found a group of friends with whom I could talk freely about life, faith and pastoring. I am always ready to pay that gift forward.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five-star rating and a kind review.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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