Read: Zechariah 4:6 |
The website Pastor Burnout Statistics (link) notes that members of clergy now suffer at higher rates than most Americans with obesity, hypertension, and depression. Among the many statistics mentioned on the website, these resonate with the theme of this posting:
- 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry
- 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation
- 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively
- 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure
Based on these statistics, burn out is a much larger issue than I imagined! In fact, it appears that ministry workers exercising their love for God can burn-out if they are not properly rested, nourished and nurtured! As a result, we lose many well-trained and equipped saints who are now doing “something else” with their giftedness. How do we avoid this? What can we do?
I’ve lost my motivation to serve God because I am burned out!
Pastors and dedicated ministry workers are called to help people discover Christ, learn to share Christ with others, mature in Christ and to remind us of our accountability to Christ. However, in our consumer-driven world, church sanctuaries have begun to look like large theaters complete with theater style seating in some cases. Subsequently, some congregations desire more theatrics and soothing sermons and less cultivating, confronting and challenging of their faith from the pulpit. This disconnect along with fewer volunteers leads to Pastors and ministry leaders attempting to bridge the gap by themselves. The combination of these factors lead to burn-out!
Burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. [link] It occurs gradually over time. It begins with a stress response. The stress manifests itself as feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, a compensation response kicks in where attempts are made to adapt and sacrifice core lifestyle principles in favor of meeting expectations. Unfortunately, if the compensation response fails, exhaustion is the last phase. In this phase, we might finally admit that something is wrong because emotional and physical changes become apparent.
Allow me to pause here to ensure that we distinguish burn out from stress. Burn out is the result of unrelenting stress, it is not the same as too much stress. The HelpGuide.org site dedicated to helping with mental, emotional and social health notes that:
“If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.”
We can also manage stress by finding a yoke-fellow to help us monitor our emotional, physical and spiritual stamina and symptoms. A yoke-fellow is someone who is a close friend and confidant. They should be Christ-centered and ideally serve in a similar role. They can be the mirror that can prevent the spiritual blindness that precedes burn-out.
God has a plan and God’s work must be done! I get that, but God is also a God of order. Thus, I believe He does not want us to burn out, but allows it to happen.
When it does happen, what if it is a blessing in disguise? What if burn out causes us to stop and really tune in to what God wanted in the first place?
Let’s explore that possibility and how to overcome burn out in our next posting.
Series Outline with links:
1. Reward – Serve Him for the reward of His fellowship and presence in your life
2. Fear – Serve Him with a reverent fear and respect for His power, presence and protection
3. Duty – Serve Him dutifully; we are called to serve Him
4. Love – Serve with all your heart, soul and mind
5. Joy – Serve Him joyfully; the joy of the Lord is our strength
1. Temptation and Sin – Cannot serve Him because I’m not “holy” enough
2. Burn-out Part 1 – Cannot serve Him because I’ve lost motivation and energy
3. Burn-out Part 2 – Cannot serve Him because I need to refuel and reload
4. Rationalization – Future – Cannot serve Him because I don’t have the time, talent, treasure necessary
5. Procrastination – Future – Cannot serve Him because I’m not able to find the right opportunity and follow through
1. Discover –
A. Are you stressed or easily stressed when doing God’s will? Can you identify the cause or reason?
B. Examining the three phases of burn out, are you on: Phase 1: Stress, Phase 2: Compensation or Phase 3: Exhaustion.
2. Develop –
A. What safe guards do you have in place to prevent too much stress? Do you limit the number or types of responsibility you accept? Do you consider all of your commitments before you say “yes”?
B. How do you react when you are under stress? Does your Christ-likeness go down a notch or two?
3. Demonstrate –
A. Does your life represent someone who has balanced their Christian life and their personal life? How did you reach that balance?
B. If you are not burned out, hug a Pastor or ministry leader that is always on the go. If you can, give them a gift card to take their family to dinner! Throw a lifeline by reminding them to rest and relax.