Pastoral work includes a plethora of activities, each of which can dominate your attention and entire day. Job descriptions tend to be vague and you can find yourself fulfilling the “other duties as assigned” that can stretch a work week past 60 hours for little to no additional compensation or appreciation. Nevermind the training needed for a senior or youth pastor that they may not get for social media marketing, video editing, or crisis counseling.
There are many needs and stressors on this job. (Sneak peek: we are announcing something next week that helps this issue that you can find here. Also we have an eBook you can use for yourself, your congregation with small groups, or for Christian counselors in session on how to get unstuck and find motivation.) But what about the personal lives of pastors, what they need help with, and where they see the biggest difficulties at?
Lifeway Research just released a report titled “The Greatest Needs of Pastors: Personal Needs and Self-Care” where they surveyed pastors last year asking about their personal life as pastors. The questions covered everything from what is difficult about self-care, what needs need they have, and demographical information. Taking this information in conjunction to the survey by FaithLife on burnout with pastors, I find some common themes.
Boundaries in Ministry
“When asked to narrow down the single greatest need in their personal lives, 30% of U.S. Protestant pastors say time management and 21% say balance between work and home.”
This fits my experience of working in ministry. Just the normal day to day work in a church can use up 25-30 hours of your day without week long church camps where you are literally working 24 hours a day for a week or more, putting together Christmas and Easter services as they are the biggest attendances of the year, and any other special even you want to do.
On top of lots of work, my experience is that poor boundaries are not only rampant but encouraged in church life. Go with your family to a movie? “I probably could use this in my next sermon.” Sunday might be a time of worship but many pastoral staff I have seen don’t take the time themselves as they are on duty. And if your ministry isn’t growing, it’s dying, so you have to strategize the next big volunteer outreach or event to get more congregation members. It can become a vicious cycle.
“Nine in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors point to at least one area in the self-care category as a need for them, and 14% say the category of self-care is the most challenging personally.”
Self-Care for Pastors
So how do pastors disconnect from work and simply be a parent, spouse, congregation member, and human?
The statistic pulled from the research that hits the hardest for me for pastors is the graph above because I saw many instances in ministry where this was in general discussed, only a couple people in ministry that actually encouraged it, and most who did the opposite..
“More than half of pastors say they find consistently exercising (59%) and avoiding over-commitment and overwork (55%) to be challenging in their ministry.”
We’ve talked about a lot of ways pastors can fight stress, deal with time management, or find better work-life balance. Here are a couple of articles you should definitely check out:
- 5 Ways Counselors Can Support Pastors
Here are a list of things that clinical counselors hopefully are willing to do to help support pastors in a variety of ways. If they are not yet doing them, I will ask you to start the conversation, but advocate for yourself so they can take some stuff off your plate or help you deal with some of your own concerns.
- Pray For Your Professionals and Pastors
Pastors are constantly praying for their congregation and community, I hope that you yourself are getting invested in through discipleship and prayer. Find a champion for this cause, probably someone on the elder/deacon board or a professional friend from another church.
- Rest For The Weary
We actually asked Christian counselors for their thoughts and this is what they came up with. Use these ideas.
- Jesus And Exhaustion
A Biblical look at exhaustion and burnout.
- 10 Signs You Are Emotionally Exhausted or Traumatized
A clinical look at exhaustion and burnout.
- Professionals Ask: Does Burn Out Happen To A Calling?
A former pastor’s experience on burnout that led them to changing careers.