Calculating the Cost of Leaving Ministry

Have you ever sat down with a piece of paper trying to calculate the cost of leaving ministry? I can remember the day, just before my 50th birthday, when I was sitting down in my office conjuring up all the cost of leaving the ministry. Fear began to overtake my heart and mind to the place where it was physically impossible to breathe as I read my list.

What could I do if left the ministry? All my education prepared me for leading a church, a team from week to week. As I conducted a skills and talent inventory of my life, it simply revealed each one of them pointed back to ministry. All my training had been about ministry. All I knew was ministry.

Fear again welled up to overtake me. I was terrified.

I started to play the game of what ifs. If this was the end of our marriage then if I tell my denominational superior … I feared retribution. He was my pastor but he was also my boss. Fear began to once again lock me into a prison of silence.

What if I consent to a divorce…I feared the carnage. There were times when I stood by a couple and witnessed the devastating effects of a home being ripped apart by divorce. I witnessed firsthand the pain between the couple. The disillusionment in the eyes of the children trying to make sense of the reality that there is no longer a family as they knew it.

What if I left the ministry? I feared I couldn’t do anything else. This issue was the biggest for me to comprehend. Stepping out of the ministry identified deep issues for me to wrestle with. For nearly 30 years I had been known as “Pastor Rob.” That was my identity; it was what also began to undergird my confusion of the role of ministry in my life.

However it was all I knew. Both terrified me immensely. But there was an even greater fear approaching.

If I have to step out of ministry…I deeply feared God’s hand of blessing being lifted from my life. The words “Once you are called into the ministry you are always called” have seemed to haunt me while I was even contemplating pulling out of ministry.

Do I really want to be coming out from under His hand of blessing? Not at all! Was this man’s way of keeping me under their interpretation of the call of God? Fear continued to mount up with in me. How could I leave the ministry then? How could I offend the very God that I had given my life to? Do you know this struggle? I was not alone in this and as I discovered there is a good chance you are in the same trap I was. How do you get out?

An excerpt from Bob Claxton’s book, The Enter Life Again Manifesto: How to Thrive as a Pastor Forced Out of the Ministry. Printed with permission. All rights reserved.

POSTED ON March 26, 2014
  • Jeff Simms

    You start out by realizing that there are different types of ministry and that some ministries are for a season rather than a lifetime. I felt the same way as this article states, but I realized that God’s kingdom work was bigger than a denomination or church. Pastors tell their congregation that their mission field is the community, but do we really believe it ourselves?

    • Great question, Jeff. Thanks for the comment.

      • Bob Claxton

        Jeff, as believers we are called to serve our God not just a single group of believers. I was always involved in community groups (eg Rotary Club) on purpose to be with them, to stay connected. But this new viewpoint has given me a much broader picture of the Kingdom. I believe that I believed it. God calls us to do what He desires and the blessing is that He knows what we will go through. I feel most qualified to minister (do to my keen understanding of deep pain) but at this point God has set me outside the office for whatever He desires to teach me and however he wants to use me. Blessings Jeff.

  • Bob, this is a great description of the challenge faced by others in ministry when transition comes. I just got your book and look forward to reading how God worked in and through you during that difficult and confusing time.

    Blessings in the ministry you are doing now!

    • Thanks for the support, Kelly. Blessings.

      • Bob Claxton

        Kelly, thank-you for your encouragement. I would appreciate your comments. Blessings.

  • J Garner

    I really resonate with that thought that “if you leave the ministry, you are no longer under God’s blessings”. Many people cautioned me as well in this most recent event in my life. Some communicated it in a vague way, while others seemed pretty direct, almost guaranteeing me a life of “wandering” if I pursued any other role than a pastor.
    However, for the past three months, I have had more time to be a true follower of Christ to LOST people than I ever did while I was “officially” in the ministry. I have come to see that most of my time while I was in the ministry revolved around church people: keeping them happy, seeking to motivate them, tending to their needs and problems, etc. Now, I have time to actually care for and serve LOST and unchurched people in the same way, which is creating more opportunities for spiritual conversations than ever before!
    So, I am now asking myself a question: Now that I am no longer “in the ministry”, am I able to more effectively fulfill my CALLING??? I’m letting God reveal the potential answers to me.

    • Bob Claxton

      I so agree with your comments. I may have been called into ministry at an early age, but stepping out of ministry never freed me from the call of ministry! Part of the problem is the chasm pastors have place between them and the laity. I have found that I have to be obedient to when God taps me on the shoulder to minister for Him. I understand your liberation J. Blessings on you.

    • Tony Bolen

      Well said J Garner; my experience has been likewise.

Robert J Claxton (Bob) was born in Ontario and spent most of his adult years there before moving to Alberta in 2002. Bob served a total of 5 congregations with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. He has degrees from Briercrest College and Simpson University and is passionate about walking along side of people who have been deeply wounded by difficult circumstances. In 2011 he started his career in business as a Vice President – Human Resources at Shippers Supply Inc in Edmonton. You can find out more about Bob’s work at