Why clergy are quitting

A group of social scientists at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research have been investigating the impact of the COVID pandemic on organized religion. They have just issued a new report titled “‘I’m Exhausted All the Time’: Exploring the Factors Leading to Growing Clergy Discontentment.” A PDF of the full report is available here.

One key finding in this report is that in the aftermath of the panedmic, the number of congregational clergy who are both considering leaving their current position and who are thinking about changing careers keeps increasing. We’ve been seeing some of this in Unitarian Universalism — I personally know of several UU ministers who have not only left their congregations, but who are now transitioning to a new career.

I participated in this study — I have no idea how they found my email address, but they sent me the survey forms and I filled it out. Now that I see the results of the report, it turns out that I’m in the minority of clergy who still love their jobs and who have no intention of leaving ministry.

But the fact remains that many other clergy are leaving the profession. It remains to be seen what effect this has on organized religion. Will it have a positive effect, in that new clergy come along whose expectations for the profession are more aligned with the new realities of congregational life? Will it have a negative effect, by reducing the pool of qualified ministers such that too many congregations can’t find qualified leadership? Or something else entirely?