Posted tagged ‘Burnout’


July 14, 2012

The Rural Ministry Blog is currently exploring the fact that every month 1,500 pastors leave the ministry due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within the church.  A recent article by Perry Noble stated “90% of the people that enter the ministry do not retire from the ministry.  They either quit or have some sort of moral/ethical failure that disqualifies them.”  In my opinion these statistics are frightening!  At no other time in history do we need effective pastors teaching and training their people, and yet we seem to be dropping like flies.  All of us entered the ministry desiring to not only retire from it, but to finish strong.  Yet if these statistics are correct, only 1 out of 10 of us will.  I don’t know about you, but I want to do everything I can to make sure that I’m not one of the 90%.

In my last two articles, I covered the topic of moral failure. Today I want to take a look at burnout.  The first step in dealing with burnout is defining the term.  One of the best definitions I have read is from the website

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

Most of us have days when we feel bored, overloaded, or unappreciated; when the dozen balls we keep in the air aren’t noticed, let alone rewarded; when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If you feel like this most of the time, however, you may be flirting with burnout. (source)

Because burnout is such a huge issue for those of us in the ministry it is absolutely imperative that we come up with a strategy to make sure it doesn’t happen to us.  Here are some tips:

Know your limitations. Let me give you an analogy to explain what I mean. I drive a Dodge Dakota truck that I am confident would go 100mph should I ever feel inclined to drive that fast.  However, if I was on a coast to coast journey and tried to go 100mph the entire trip, I am certain that my truck would break down long before I reached my destination.  Why? Because my truck is not designed to travel at that rate of speed for that length of time.  Our bodies are very similar.  God designed our bodies to be able to go “pedal to the metal” occasionally for brief periods of time. But if we try to live our lives “pedal to the metal” all the time we will find ourselves in a world of hurt mentally, physically, and spiritually. We need to understand our limitations and live within them if we want to avoid burnout. Just because Pastor So-and-so can work two outside jobs, pastor a church, lead three home groups, and survive on five hours of sleep a night, doesn’t mean that you can.

Learn how to say no.  Leadership expert John Maxwell said it this way, “If you can’t say no, your yeses mean less.”  Consistently over-committing yourself is just asking for trouble.  I must admit that this is a huge area of weakness for me.  I love helping people, and therefore hate saying no.  However, I realized a long time ago that I cannot do everything, and when I try to do everything my stress levels rise and my work quality tanks.  I’ve often had to say no to things that are very worthwhile endeavors to make sure I have enough time to do the things God has called me to do.

Take time for yourself.  All throughout the Gospels we see instances of Jesus leaving the crowds and going off by Himself to pray.  I am positive that there were people in those crowds that needed healing and deliverance, and the crowd certainly needed to hear the message that Jesus had. There was lots of ministry that needed to be done, yet Jesus left the crowds and went off by Himself to get alone with God.  If Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the omnipotent, omniscient God come in the flesh, needed to leave the demands of ministry to go off by Himself, then so do we.

By the way, this time should not happen on a day off – it should be scheduled ahead of time and should be part of your normal work routine.  I schedule one day of solitude per month in addition to my normal days off.  Why do I do this?  Because a day off is generally when we catch up on all the things that need to be done in our personal lives.  So even though it’s called a day off, it’s not a day for rest and reflection.  By scheduling in a day of solitude, it allows me to get the time I need to relax and reflect spiritually.

Unplug. Take some time to disconnect from your cell phone, e-mail, twitter, facebook, etc.  Despite what some people in your church may feel, you do not have to be available 24/7.  I know that some of you are thinking “but what if they have an emergency?”  Let’s be honest about that for a moment; how many of these “emergencies” are real emergencies?  Yes, the issue is important to the person calling, but in the majority of cases it can easily wait for a few hours.  Set your cell phone voicemail and e-mail autoresponder to tell people that you will be unavailable and give them contact information for the person they should talk to in your absence.

I think all of us would agree that burnout is a very real problem that we cannot ignore if we wish to finish the task we’ve been called to.  While researching this topic I ran across several good articles that explore the issue further.  Here are the links:

Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, & Coping Strategies

True & False Burnout: Are You Deceived?

Are You Headed for a Ministry Burnout?

7 Tips to Avoid Burnout

How about you? Have you ever experienced, or are you currently in, a state of burnout? How did it affect you and your ministry? Leave a comment below