Former Pastors on the Need for Support

Blog November 22, 2023

In laboring where there are already some in the faith, the minister should at first seek not so much to convert unbelievers, as to train the church members for acceptable co-operation. Let him labor for them individually, endeavoring to arouse them to seek for a deeper experience themselves, and to work for others. When they are prepared to sustain the minister by their prayers and labors, greater success will attend his efforts. (E. G. White, Gospel Workers, 196)

In 2021, René Drumm and Petr Činčala undertook a study that aimed at understanding why pastors who leave pastoral ministry within the Adventist Church choose to do so. Because little had been known about why pastors decide to stop being pastors, Church administrators and leaders had found it difficult to make plans to address this issue. The study gathered information from 14 former pastors who had voluntarily left pastoral ministry.

Researchers asked former pastors about the conditions that led to their decision to leave church employment. Some of the most common issues included ongoing challenges with Conference leadership and church members, difficulty with the Adventist Church’s organizational structure and traditional approaches to pastoral ministry, spiritual doubts and doctrinal differences, and a lack of adequate training to do their jobs properly. This blog addresses the first of these issues.

Ongoing Challenges with Church Members and Conference Leadership

There are always challenges when groups of people interact with each other, but the study participants made a distinction between these and persistent disrespect, power struggles, or members not wanting to take any of the leadership burdens.

“What was challenging were very difficult church members. People who just made your life miserable. People who talked about you. People who made false information about you and spread it to other people.” (Ralph)

“I think some of the challenges were lack of ownership or engagement from the members. Members who would have a hands-off approach, an “I don’t want to lead. I’ll just come. I really don’t want to do anything. I’ll just come.” And it was quite taxing having to motivate people who just did not want to be motivated.” (Finn)

In addition, the former pastors confided that their experiences with Conference leaders often felt lacking, negative, or unjust.

“[I felt] pressure from leadership at the Conference level to raise goals, to meet tithe demands, to do this stuff. And I internalized a lot of that pressure. It was almost like you were being squeezed because you’re getting pressure, and you’re supposed to pass it on down.” (Finn)

“We saw that those who were not liked, or those who didn’t have the greatest reputation, weren’t being treated fairly . . . We knew that people were being sent out to this area where nobody was because the administration didn’t like them. Or, we knew that this guy was being moved, because he needed to be taught a lesson.” (Silas)

Lack of Caring from Administration and Church Members

As well as actual conflict, study participants sensed that their administrators and/or church members did not understand or care about their welfare, and they were hurt by the lack of outreach by church leaders before and after they had left the pastoral ministry.

“The challenge that I had was a lack of support and care for pastors. It’s almost like I’m a mercenary—you go, bring the soldier, and bring the money in. As long as I do that, everything is fine, but other than that, when you reach out for some help, there’s none. Even to the point when I sent in my resignation there was very little communication.” (Milo)

“Does anybody call me? I’ve lost my marriage. I lost my career. Does anybody call? No. Why? Because I think at the end of the day, there’s a culture within Adventism that breeds inauthenticity.” (Ezra)

Support and Proactive Advocacy

When asked what things might have helped keep them in pastoral ministry, there was a widespread sense that they were on their own in solving problems in pastoral ministry. In addition, they often felt that in conflict situations, the Conference tended to take the side of the church members rather than the side of the pastors. They felt that there was a lack of proactive relationship-building from Conference leadership that became obvious when pastors reached out for help and were ignored.


The study research team recommended that a system of leadership be developed in the Church that would proactively support and advocate not only for the pastors’ health and wellbeing, but also for their families. Our distinct Seventh-day Adventist theology emphasizes wholeness and health, but most pastors are not engaging in the most basic principles of self-care, emotional care, and spiritual care. They also suggested that the administration create best practices for Conference administrators and provide comprehensive training in that leadership model.

When looking at these research findings, it became apparent that these former pastors felt alone, without the support from others. We need to acknowledge that these are the views of the study participants, therefore, they cannot be generalized to all pastors’ experiences. However, the findings are significant and should not be ignored. Ellen White’s statement quoted above affirms that greater success in ministry will be achieved through the support of church members. Not only their prayers, but also their engagement in church ministries is needed.

How can you support your pastor? What can you do in your local church?

For further research findings regarding pastoral support, please read our previously published blogs:

Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.

Published by ASTR on 11/22/23


Petr Činčala and Rene Drumm. Former Seventh-day Adventist Pastors: Qualitative Study Report. 2021.