Ten Rules to Avoid Ministry Burnout
Burnout is a real problem, and for pastors, it is a real threat to you, your family, your ministry, and your church. According to one study on why pastors leave the ministry, moral failure is only the second most common reason pastors leave the ministry. The first is burnout.
When burnout runs its course, pastors often report that they have no initiative or drive, little energy, don’t want to visit with people, and just want to be left alone. Other symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, and disillusionment with people, loss of confidence, a feeling of being mistreated, and feelings of detachment. Of course, with the intense and unrelenting demands of ministry, there is a spiral effect: Burnout causes inefficiency, inefficiency creates increasing demands, demands create pressure and concomitant guilt for not achieving desired goals, added pressure and guilt causes stress, stress causes a depletion of energy and drive, which in turn causes inefficiency.
Sound familiar? Want to get off that vicious merry-go-round? Here are 10 life-saving suggestions:
- “Take heed to yourself” in accordance with Paul’s exhortation to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:16). Paul was first concerned with Timothy the person before he was concerned for Timothy the pastor. Heed Paul’s wise command to pay careful attention to yourself.
- Cultivate dependence on Godfor the strength and power needed in your ministry. Remember, your ministry is not yours – it is God’s. Stop trying to control what you can’t control and manage what you have no business managing. This includes managing other’s opinions of you and their reactions to you.
- Lower your expectations. Delegate Biblically speaking, being a pastor is not a one-man show. Have you turned it into one?
- Learn to balance your life and pace yourself.Ministry is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Take frequent breaks.
- Create time away to get refreshed. Jesus often “withdrew to a quiet place” and effectively said “no” to ministry opportunities. You should do no less.
- Cultivate interests that are not directly related to your work as a pastor. It is refreshing to engage in activities where you are not the one in charge, the one in the know.
- Develop a sense of humorso that you can laugh at yourself and difficult situations. Laughter is an antidote to cynicism and sarcasm.
- Pay careful attention to your diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. Don’t underestimate the importance of staying physically healthy and daily exercise. Endorphins are God’s natural high achieved by sweat and hard work!
- Seek intimate fellowship with pastors and others with whom you can share your burdens.A common theme I see in counseling pastors is their sense of isolation and loneliness. By developing peer relationships, you give God an opportunity to create friendships, alliances, and ministry opportunities that may surprise you.
- Get help if you need it.You are used to being the one in control, doing the counseling, being there for those who are hurting, and keeping everyone else altogether. Some pastors see counseling as something that “other people” need. Those who are in the helping profession are most at risk for burnout. One of the best things you can do for your ministry, yourself, and your family may be to visit with a trusted counselor who can be there for you, provide insight and feedback, and help you along the way.
This is where Counseling on Demand comes in. You need not go through this alone. With our support, you may get through these times in surprisingly short order. We have counselors who specialize in pastoral burnout.
We can help. You needn’t leave your favorite/private place. Nor must you wait for an appointment. We are there 24/7. You can begin in 24 hours or less.
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