Burnout is not a new concept, but for pastors, it would appear that more and more are accepting that it truly does exist and it’s impacting them great. We have identified several statistics about burnout before and how to over come it when it happens. New results for a longitudinal study digs deeper into what we have already seen.
Barna Group has found that for pastors currently in ministry, while there are certainly challenges present, many are not handling these challenges well. 57% of pastors stated their own spiritual formation too often takes a back seat to other pastoral duties and 33% of pastors often feel depressed.
This is concerning for two reasons. First, my experience with pastors is that they do not feel they can confide in others about these feelings. If you tell the senior pastor, you may be looked down upon or asked to take a leave of absence that more than likely is unpaid. It furthers the isolation and can cause resentment. The second is that these pastors who feel this way are also leading their congregation from a source of ineffectiveness and emptiness. I understand that there are seasons for feeling like you need better self-care and depressed, these surveys are talking about too often feeling depressed or lacking spiritual formation and this should be a warning alarm for the Church.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout can be associated with stress on the job or how you interact with family at home. You find yourself frustrated when the work week starts. Monday or Tuesday comes in after a long weekend of work and you dread going in. You get back to work after lunch, if you even took one, and find yourself unable to focus or feel motivated to work on your to-do list. Another meeting, even if it is to talk about the Sunday service or discipleship with volunteers.
People will say burnout is caused due to “burning the candle at both ends,” “maybe you need more training,” or for pastors that “you weren’t really called to this position.” Burnout is seen as exhaustion, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
But burnout tends to not be any one thing. It’s not like we can look at pastors and say “if you pray more or read the Bible more.” Nor is it a matter of “let’s talk about breathing exercises and going for a walk.” While all of these things are good and will help, it’s less about doing any one thing and more about a change of your routine and priorities, which makes for a great sermon that I have heard many times.
Pastors, Resilience, and Burnout
Our belief is that you should practice what you preach, literally. Pastors tend to be people who are service oriented, loving one another but many times struggle to take their own advice. This is not an uncommon issue, but one that can breed unhealthiness and corrupt your own witness. Barna was wise to this in the data and found it to be true with statistical significance as seen below.
Dr. Angela Duckworth is the author of the book Grit which identifies achievement to be due to passion and perseverance. She is quoted as saying this about burnout:
We put everything we can into something and there is nothing coming back… there is nothing more you can do and furthermore what you are doing isn’t working.
The chart above along with Dr. Duckworth’s words pair nicely. We see that the pastor who has not considered quitting prioritizes self-care, feels rewarded, and does not see themselves doing anything else. These things are not simple “pray more” as we said above, but fundamental, core beliefs in their calling and profession. This requires us to be intentional on how great ministry is, putting yourself first so that you “serve from a full cup,” and not doing more for everyone else that you are not also doing for yourself, without exception.
If you have felt this, reach out to us, we’d love to chat with you about how we can help you serve better, longer. Our heart is to see Christian counselors and church leaders collaborate for the long term and if a conversation can help that, we would love to do so. Send us a message on social media or comment us that you’d love to talk sometime.
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