TiM Programs May Help New Clergy Stay in Ministry

One of the driving factors behind the creation of the Transition into Ministry (TiM) initiatives was concern over the number of pastors and priests quitting church-based ministry, many within the first five years after ordination.

While it’s difficult to estimate an average clergy attrition rate across Christian denominations, the findings of the Clergy Into Action Study indicate that alumni of TiM programs have less desire to leave ordained ministry than other new clergy.

The picture is basically positive for the recently ordained, whether they have participated in Transition into Ministry programs or not. Clergy’s TiM experiences do not appear to make a dramatic difference.

We asked TiM participants and a control group of other new clergy to rate how seriously they had considered leaving congregation-based ministry specifically and ordained ministry in general. Results from the two groups look fairly similar.

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TiM alumni were slightly less likely than other new clergy to report that they had “seriously” or “very seriously” considered quitting ordained ministry altogether (8.6% compared with 11.4%). TiM clergy appear more dedicated to staying in ministry; approximately 82% indicated that they give the idea of leaving, at most, a passing thought.

The situation is not so clear regarding commitment to congregation-based ministry. The percentage of TiM alumni stating that they have seriously or very seriously considered switching to a different type of ministry was lower than the percentage for other clergy (20.6% compared with 22.1%).


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However, the fact that more than 20% of both groups had given serious consideration to the idea of leaving congregational work testifies to the challenging nature of church ministry.

Of course, considering leaving and actually leaving are two different things. We asked clergy if, at the time of their participation in the Clergy Into Action Study, they were actively serving and leading congregations. Almost 6% more of our control group than our TiM group identified themselves as not serving as a pastor or priest of a congregation at that time.

Nearly 20% of our clergy control group indicated that they were not working in a church. Most were in roles related to their religious training or ordination, such as hospital chaplain, military chaplain, religion teacher, or pastoral counselor. No more than 20 of them appeared to be in full-time jobs that were totally unrelated to their ordination.



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What conclusions should we draw from the fact that TiM participants are more likely to be employed in churches? That’s open to interpretation.

It could confirm that Transition into Ministry training and development increase the staying power of pastors and priests in congregations, or it could indicate that TiM programs are more likely to accept applicants who express a strong commitment to church-based ministry. It’s also possible that seminary and divinity school students who are intent on serving congregations are most likely to pursue or apply for TiM programs.


For Your Consideration

  • If you are an ordained minister who works at a church, try to remember a time when you considered leaving the ministry. What was the situation? Were there negative experiences you wanted to avoid, or expectations that had not been fulfilled? And what most strongly influenced your decision to stay or go?


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