What happens if a pastor leaves your church?


I was wondering what if a pastor leaves his church? Is there a central organization to send another pastor over or the parish just have to go and hire someone else?

During the searching for the new one? What happens to that current parish? No church service?



Well, most of the time, the answer is the exact same as the Catholic church. They send someone or have multiple pastors.
In my denomination, they would send a “local pastor” or someone who fills in.
For independent churches, they would get a substitute or someone in the congregation, youth pastor, elder, deacon, or music director does it.

At an unprogrammed Quaker service, well, nothing would happen :smiley:


Hi Water,
I think you will need to clarify your question. Are you referring to mainline Protestant denominations or non-denominational churches? The mainline denominations like Methodist and Lutheran have their pastors assigned by bishops, so when one leaves and he is reassigned or retires, another one is assigned. It’s pretty much the same as in Catholic parishes.

I don’t know what the process is like for non-denominational churches, because all of my Protestant family members and friends belong to mainline denominations. I don’t know any non-denominational Protestants.


I believe I meant non-denominational churches. I am sorry, at this point I am still trying to learn all the term and get to know all churches out there other than Catholic. :smiley: I am not saying I am leaving Catholic :), it would just better to understand others if I know more about them)


3,000 miles almost near, I will need to change oil soon. Thanks for reminding, BrianH :smiley:


For many churches, yes, the congregation has to hire a new one. Ideally, the congregation will have some lead time to prepare, giving time to let it be known they are looking for a replacement, form a search committee and discuss what they are looking for in a pastor while the current one is still in place. Once a few candidates are identified, frequently the search committee will try to go hear the person preach in his or her current church if possible, and invite the top couple to come to preach a service at the church so that the congregation gets a chance to meet the candidate and the candidate can meet the church.

If the church is not large enough to already have an assistant pastor who can step in, the church may call an interim pastor (there are some ministers who specialize in that sort of thing, helping a church find a new settled minister) or there may be lay led services to fill in the gap.


Thank you, Karen.

It must be tough for any church to go through this. At our church, we have a great priest. However, sooner or later, he will be assigned to different parish. I really learn a lot from his sermons and homily and wish he never goes, but everyone deserves to have a great priest. :slight_smile:


It can be devastating, depending on the relationship between the minister and the congregation. If the minister is leaving under duress, for example, sometimes it will split the church into supporters and detractors, and that particular congregation may fail.

If the minister was popular and especially if he or she had been there for a long time, bringing in someone new can also split the congregation or create hardship for the new minister. This, I believe, is one of the reasons behind the practice that I believe the Methodists and Lutherans used to have (don’t know if it is true anymore) of rotating ministers every few years.

In some of the nondenominational megachurches the entire church is built around a charismatic powerful leader and when that person leaves or dies (or, as sometimes happens, is found to have feet of clay), perhaps after decades, the church collapses. There is no larger organizational structure to support and assist it and the whole thing was tied up in a “cult of personality” built around this particular minister. This can happen even if there are multiple assistant ministers who may step forward, even if the replacement is the son of the founding minister.

Our own church (Unitarian Universalist) is in the early stages of replacing our minister as he is retiring. He has been with the church for 15+ years, so it is hard to imagine it without him, but he has given us lead time to make the process gradual and a chance to make it a positive experience. He will leave at the end of the next fiscal year, then the rules of the UU Association require that we have an interim minister for a year before we can have another settled minister, to give time to break between the two and start with a “clean slate,” if you will. The policy is beneficial, so that there is less of a burden on the new minister of expectations that he or she will be exactly like the old one.


Rotating pastor/priest is good so that no one gets attached to anyone. At the same time, it is the whole parish who builds up the parish/community. We can’t just rely on the pastor/priest alone.

Thanks for your time Karen.


If the Pope leaves Church, he resigns, he can be replace when the Cardinals can elect a new Pope. So the succession of the Pope continues.

I’m sure the Protestants have some form of succession…it’s the same way if someone dies…


You are absolutely correct, and this is what I see as a major weakness of many of the megachurches (and some of the smaller nondenominational ones). It appeas to me to be not as much about the community as it is about a “cult of personality” around a charismatic leader.

I am also afraid that at least some of the larger churches (and here I am talking about the ones that have huge individual congregations, not large denominations) tend to foster a consumerist attitude toward the church rather than an ownership one. The church as a place where one comes to see what is offered and if it doesn’t meet ones exact needs (for programs, entertainment, etc), one goes to the next one (like the next store in the mall) to see if they have it.

There is no vested interest in seeing a particular congregation succeed or finding solutions’to issues, no feeling of individual responsibility to help create the community one needs. It is seen as a commodity, not a family/community structure to which one is tied and to which one has a responsibility beyond oneself. Our American culture has so much available on demand that I think that expectation of what we want when we want it tends to filter into every aspect of life if we aren’t aware and careful.


For many churches it is a matter of hiring a new minister, as the minister is an employee of the church, just as a company might need to hire a new CEO–a big decision, but still one done by the members or their appointed representatives.


This reminds me of my Protestant father. After about 20 years of Pastors he did not agree with, he eventually started his own non-denominational church. He hired and fired several pastors until his youngest son decided he wanted to be a preacher(someone whom thought and believed the same as he did). This brother of mine has since become a Church of God Bishop. I just wonder if my little brother gets transferred, will by dad revert his church back to non-denominational so he can hire and fire at will?


In my days as a protestant this happened at the Church I was attending, an Assemblies of God church.

There were some issues and the pastor resigned rather than being fired by the parish council. He did so becuase close to half the church was on his side and there was a great fear that this group would follow him out and form a new church, the pastor did not want this to happen so he resigned with a plea to keep the church together.

Over the next couple of months the associate pastors took control of the worship services. We had 3 or 4 guys come in and “audition” by leading the worship service on a Sunday, then the church members voted and with that the council hired the new pastor.

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