Should I Re-Engage In Full-Time Ministry?

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble and if I stay it will be double.

‘Tis the song of any leader struggling with deep issues within the church.

Since the creation of this website, I’ve seen a handful of my expastor friends re-enter the ministry in some form or fashion. In fact, just a few months after I launched the site, an opportunity came up for me, personally, to re-engage in full-time ministry once again.

And I decided to take the offer.

I don’t think my decision to re-enter the paid ministry world is all too uncommon. Many individuals reach this website because of their distinct web engine searches, such as:

Jobs for expastors
Getting back into full-time ministry.

So, after talking with several friends who’ve left full-time ministry and meeting new friends, who have as well left paid ministry, it doesn’t surprise me to see an internal disturbance growing in the hearts of many expastors and ex-leaders who are searching for something more. To, again, be engaged in active full-time ministry, all while paying their bills.

I felt the same way. I was longing for something more.

To those of us who felt called into leadership positions within the church and, now that we’re no longer functioning in that role, perhaps we feel lost or like we’re missing a part of our spiritual structure. We’ve spent countless nights going over the good and the bad we experienced during our times as pastors and leaders and then we spent more time searching for new ministry positions and other opportunities to dive in once again. Sometimes, not entirely sure if the pool we’re diving into is full of water or if it’s completely dry.

And, so, the search results prove my case that there is a longing in our hearts. Perhaps it’s that we feel that we are not living up to our potential as individuals, that we’ve failed, or that we’ve somehow let God down. Whatever the case, we long to once again, dive in.

If you find yourself in this category, I would suggest asking yourself these things:

1. Am I ready?

You may have experienced deep wounds from a recent ministry position that has left you hurt, bitter, angry, or jaded. Be true to yourself when asking tough questions.

How have I (or have I) recovered from the hurt?
What steps have I taken to start the restoration process?
Am I emotionally ready to jump back in, risking the possibility of getting hurt again?

There is a reason behind every decision for those who have left the ministry or were asked to leave. It’s important to evaluate where you are at, and where you’ve been, before diving forward in ministry again.

2. Is my family ready?

When I decided to step down from my full-time ministry position, it didn’t just impact my life but it equally impacted the lives of my family, my wife and our small child. It was difficult for us but in the long run it was exactly what we needed. It took us a while to recover from the hurt we experienced. After asking yourself some tough questions and working through the honest answers, start communicating with your family, your spouse, and your kids.

Where are they at emotionally?
Are they ready to see you potentially go through hurt again?
Do they even want to get back into a ministry lifestyle?

Allow God to communicate to you through your family. After all, they are your first ministry.

3. Is the church ready for me?

There are new people being added to the church every day. New faces, people who know nothing about church culture and “how things are supposed to be done.” They don’t need our problems and our issues and the hurt that we’ve experienced. They don’t need our cynicism. They just need Jesus. Ask yourself:

Am I ready to set all other things aside?
Am I ready to simply preach Jesus?

Lastly, and most important …

4. Is this what God has for me?

I know we all have an opinion on this but I’ll share what I’ve come to know to be true for me.

I think, if we really fine-tuned it, we could say that God probably doesn’t care whether or not you’re a pastor or in full-time ministry. He doesn’t care if you’re a janitor or if you are a pharmacy technician either. As we read from Romans, He’s concerned about you first:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

First, you.
Then your family.
Then the church.
And if you truly feel that full-time ministry is where you fit best, then maybe that’s the direction God has for you.

But, first, you have a lot of questions to answer.

POSTED ON February 14, 2013
  • Awesome Autumn

    I think these are all great questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about re-entering the ministry after some time out. In my dad’s case, the hurt he suffered in ministry came near the end of his life, and I was the one who had trouble forgiving the people who had hurt him and our family. If you think for half a second your family isn’t affected by your working in ministry you are sorely mistaken. And really, the more I think about it, the more it’s like someone dating again after having their heartbroken…it takes a lot to be ready and it shouldn’t be rushed and we needn’t run into a situation because we are trying to feel better (instead of being somewhere along the way in the healing process) about the last situation that hurt us. 

    • Spoken well from the perspective of a family member. Thanks Autumn.

Bo Lane is the founder of ExPastors, a community that strives to offer help, healing, and hope for expastors, pastors, and church leaders, and author of Why Pastors Quit. As a media professional with more than 15 years of experience, he has developed marketing and brand strategies that have revolutionized churches and businesses, both large and small. Bo left full-time ministry after serving more than a decade in churches in Oregon, California, and Iowa. He is also a writer, filmmaker, woodworker, husband and father.