Did you know that over 60% of people who attend seminaries leave vocational ministry within five years of graduating?
Is this a bad trend?
I have heard this statistic many times in seminary settings, though I am not sure of the source. I certainly heard it as I entered seminary. The point (I think!) was to make me take seriously what I was about to enter into. Seminiaries seemingly see this as their failure to train men and women for ministry.
Let me list two reasons why the statistic is not a bad as you think:
1. Leaving vocational ministry is not leaving ministry. People assume failure because someone has left vocational ministry, yet I know some seminary grads that went into business and have wonderful ministries. They help people find jobs, they serve as evangelists on the front lines and represent Christ in a number of settings. Vocational ministry is not a defining marker of success.
2. Some people need to be weeded out. This is just a sad fact. You can be a great student and terrible with people. Seminary can't train you to be a problem solver or leader. Vocational ministry can be hard, and if you don't have the gifting for it, it is better that you serve the Lord in another capacity. The church can be hard on people and that is who is typically blamed for pastor burnout. The reality is that it is often just as much the pastor's fault.
That is not to take away from the fact that many do not make it past five years. Personally, in the first five years out of seminary, there have been a few hard things that could have led me to leave vocational ministry. But I felt so strongly that the Lord had called me to specific tasks, that I made it. Others have not. I also know men who were doing great in vocational ministry, but felt pulled to the business world. There were no bad motives. They just felt they could serve the Lord better working for a corporation. Some even start their own businesses. One friend of mine is now a lawyer.
It's not that bad of a statistic!
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.