Natalia Terfa: The Church and the Great Resignation

There’s a phenomenon we’re experiencing right now, one that is predicted to continue over the next year, called “The Great Resignation.” (If you haven’t heard about it yet, you can read about it HERE or HERE.)

4 million people in the U.S. quit their jobs in April alone, and a not insignificant number of others are at least considering it.

In early August, CNBC reported a survey which showed that:

...38% of US workers are seeking employment elsewhere.
...41% are considering leaving their current job within the next six months.
...52% of people who are thinking about quitting say they're financially prepared to do so
...57% of people who say they are not financially prepared to do so are willing to take on debt while they search for their next job.

There is something happening, as people begin to examine the ways life has changed over the last year and a half.

We are, collectively, holding up the pieces of our lives and asking what parts we want to keep and what parts we can let go of. We are asking questions about what really matters.

On a somewhat smaller scale than the job market, but no less impactful for those of us in church leadership, people are doing this same thing with their faith. People are pondering what to keep and what to let go of.

And, friends in the church, it’s time for us to be honest about which one of those most people are choosing.

Over the past few weeks, I have had many conversations about how the church “doesn’t mean what it used to mean to me” and how faith is being found more outside of the church than inside. Just as they are doing with their work and their lives at home, our people are holding up the pieces of their life of faith and asking what really matters.

This is, dare I say it, the beautiful, glorious, and God-centered work of deconstruction.

This term has received quite a bit of negative press lately as churches blame the decrease in worship attendance on a loss of faith, instead of what it really is, people deciding that their faith does not need the church.

Add to this the fact that many church workers, pastors, music directors, youth leaders, and other church staff have all at least considered leaving ministry, if not currently planning to do so. All of that on top of the decrease in seminary students and an increase in retiring clergy and you have the recipe for a very different future church than we are currently planning for.

The church has some very challenging and vulnerable work to do. Together. Denominational leaders and staff and clergy and congregations. I call it vulnerable work because it’s so hard to come face to face with difficult truths, the primary one being that the way we have always done it isn’t going to work where we are going next.

This feeling of vulnerability can either create space for the spirit to create and move and grow or it can cause us to harden and dig our heels in and the new life we are being asked to plant and care for will not be able to take root.

I don’t have the answers, not at all, but I can tell you with complete confidence that riding the pendulum swing back to “how we used to do it” is a recipe for the death of the future church. And while I don’t have answers, I do have some ideas and questions, based on the interactions I have with my community of faithful non-churchgoers whom I pastor weekly through the airwaves of a podcast.

To my clergy colleagues, our people are as tired and struggling with their faith as much as we are.

Your vulnerability and honesty about these struggles from the pulpit are needed.

The church should be a place where we can do this struggle together, not a place where struggling doubters feel they cannot go. I know how tired you are. Does your congregation?

To the higher-ups across denominations, do you know how close your clergy are to leaving ministry right now? They need you to see them, hear them, and advocate for them, and they need you to be at the forefront of thinking creatively about the future of the church.

To people of faith in and outside of congregations, keep asking questions. Keep struggling and doubting and wondering and dreaming.

You are imagining the future we keep talking about.


Natalia Terfa

Natalia is a Lutheran pastor and author who lives in Minneapolis with her hubby, kiddo, and kitty babies. She loves to bake, to read, practice yoga, and find nature adventures. She is passionate about the church of the future, one with no boundaries and filled to the brim with love and grace and laughter and snark and a lot of fellow “not that kind of Christians.”

Natalia co-hosts Cafeteria Christian, a podcast for people who love Jesus but aren’t so sure about his followers.


Used with permission. Originally posted on Church Anew, a ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN.

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As an ecumenical and inclusive ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, the content of each Church Anew blog represents the voice of the individual writer and does not necessarily reflect the position of Day1, Church Anew, or St. Andrew Lutheran Church on any specific topic.