Vocational ministry is a unique profession for several reasons, not the least of which is the needed “calling from God” for Evangelical ministers. After someone receives this call, they begin their formal seminary training, which usually includes a 90-credit-hour master’s degree. Despite the sense of divine calling, time, money, and commitment, the number of people who leave vocational ministry is alarming. In leaving the profession, ministers experience guilt and a sense of moral failing, in addition to the waste of time and money spent accruing the correct credentials in seminary. In this study, we conducted in-depth interviews of former ministers to learn why they left the profession. While framed by the participants as individual failings, we found that vocational ministers face significant structural constraints that make it difficult to succeed. The findings from this study suggest that aspiring ministers be aware of the challenges of vocational ministry, and churches and seminaries implement structural changes to improve clergy longevity.

Author Bio

Wesley Cohoon is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. He has earned a D.Min., M.S. in Sociology, and an M.Div. He is an ordained minister, a former Board-Certified Chaplain, and a Certified Clinical Sociologist.

Jessica Gullion is an Associate Professor of Sociology and the Associate Dean of Research at Texas Woman’s University. She earned a Ph.D. in Sociology, M.A. in Sociology, and a B.A. in English.

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