Don’t Burnout! – Congregation Edition

“The expectations that people put on their pastors today — and that pastors put on themselves! — are debilitating.” – Bill Gaultiere

We are living in a time where authority and leadership of any kind is not honored or respected. We live in the most rebellious of generations and sadly that has spilled over into church culture as well. If you scroll through your Social Media feeds, I am sure you will come across people sharing and/or posting about the president, political leaders, and political candidates. Whether you believe they’re wrong or right, as christians we are called to a higher standard (I know it may be tough at times, I get it!) and we are instructed to obey and honor those over us in leadership, even if we don’t like them! (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Tim. 2:1-15, Romans 13:1) There will be times when unjust rulers will be in place, but that doesn’t exempt us from following God’s instructions, if anything it should cause us to pray more for those rulers and leaders for the sake of our future.

“First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way. This is good and pleases God our Savior.”  – 2 Timothy 2:1-3

It bothers me greatly when I see people in the church calling the president names and making racial and religious slurs towards him. And to feel that way doesn’t mean I support his policies or beliefs, but it does mean that I know that once you allow dishonor into your heart in one area of life it will pour into all areas of your life. And, this is what is happening in our culture. We have created a society where students don’t honor teachers, employees don’t honor employers, people don’t honor presidents or other national leaders, and ultimately congregants don’t honor their pastors. The lack of honor in this generation, on all fronts, is leading to a rise in leadership burnout, ministerial burnout, and a decline in Christian growth in the western church. The greatest tragedy is that our pastors and churches are suffering on the altar of failure being lit by the torches of offended, rebellious sheep, and that shouldn’t be!

“Great Ideas” or Masked Criticism

In today’s society, pastors are carrying a great amount of stress and suffer from feeling inadequate and drained. You may not see it, but many pastors deal with feeling inadequate, feeling like an absolute failure in life, ministry, and to their family. A majority of pastors feel that they’ve accomplished little as they often hear criticism and critiques of “how to make this ministry thrive” and “we could really make this church something awesome, if you would do this.” When constantly faced with “great ideas” on how to improve or expand the ministry, the underlying message that comes across is “you’re not good enough.” While most pastors welcome ideas and creativity, they are not all-powerful and often the failure of the implementation of those “great ideas” is the failure of people to be faithful to serve and DO the things necessary to grow and expand the church and the vision for the church. We can all develop ideas and plans, but often we fail to put action behind those plans. The Bible even tells us that faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26) So, if you have faith that your idea and plan is the key for helping the ministry reach more people and expand the vision, rather than just telling the pastor your idea, be a self-starter! Research the idea, organize a game plan, write detailed descriptions of how it would work, find out what is needed to implement this plan, create a budget if there is a financial need to be met, and any other leg work you can do, then present. When you’ve taken the time to show you’re genuinely interested in the church and HELPING the pastor, not just CRITIQUING, the pastor will be more receptive and open to the implementation of this idea. And, if you really believe in this idea, verbalize to the pastor that you’re available to be involved in the implementation and organization of this plan, but that you understand if there is someone he feels would be better suited for that job. What you have done is shown the pastor you are there for them and, most importantly, that you respect their incite and opinion regarding who is qualified for leadership! Doing this speaks volumes to them and shows them that they’re not alone in this, and their opinion is respected and honored! And, if they don’t select you to lead — DON’T GET OFFENDED — you did your part and you established that you’re there for them if they need you, and that is what is truly important! I’ve noticed this in my personal life, and the unique quality for me is that my pastors just happen to be my parents too. People may think, “oh, well then they’ll always like and implement your ideas,” but that is not the case. As ministerial children, we wear different hats and this can be more difficult than simply being a church member who is not related to the pastor, because there is a familiarity that can enter in if you allow it to. In this, you have to learn to separate whether you’re interacting with your pastor or parent in each situation as it is a thin line, but a very important one to get the most out of family life and church life. (Great Read: If the Hat Fits, Wear it)

I’ve noticed over the years that when I say, “You know, we should do…” or “This is a great idea for our church…” but lack more than that, nothing will happen. Is this simply because my pastors aren’t interested? No, but it is because pastors have so many responsibilities on they’re hands already as well as family and personal responsibilities, that the thought of adding something else to the pile is more than they can commit to. However, when I take the time to put in an effort and offer my time to help, send copy and print ideas, write up descriptions and plans in detail, that is when they actually get implemented, because I, as a church member, have shown my pastors that I am willing and able to implement the plan, and that I believe in the future of the ministry so much that I would use my time to support its betterment! This alone can serve a greater purpose in the longevity and success of your pastors and the ministry as a whole.

Pastoral Burnout

I think the greatest tragedy today are the statistics that have come out regarding ministers and pastors. Burnout is being experienced in ministry at great numbers. Longevity in ministry has become a thing of the past, as well as honor and submission. over the past few decades the push has been for churches to be more edgy and more “relative” to the world, and while some methods are great when implemented properly, many methods have replaced the message. I’ve known pastors who took this route and now cope with the stress of ministry by smoking their stogies and drinking their scotch on the rocks or rely on wine and other alcoholic beverages just to sleep. These were once people who spoke prophetically and could preach down the fire or the holy ghost, but under the pressure to compromise, they crumbled. In my hometown there was a senior pastor, in a large church many of my friends attended, that committed suicide in his home on a Sunday morning after his family had left ahead of him to go to church, because the stress of the position and hurts of pastoring had cause him to spiral into depression. And then there are pastors I’ve known personally, who hurt, battle depression, feel like failures, are criticized, ostracized, BUT they stick with it and stay the course in the midst of what seems like utter defeat. These pastors make me think of the quote by Kenneth W. Hagin, “I cannot be defeated and I will not quit!” Are there times they want to? I’m positive there are. Are there times where they feel isolated? Defeated? Hurt? Abused? Misused? Cursed? Accused? Slandered? Absolutely. That is why it is important, now more then ever before, for the church to become aware of the traps and wiles of the enemy, and to take their place beside their pastor! Not so far behind where he can’t see them, not in front of him, but in line with him. It is time for the church to grow up and PROTECT the gift God has given them! Do you value your pastor? Do you genuinely honor and treasure his voice and place in your life? If so, then you should keep watch over the fruit of your lips, the attitude of your heart, and the direction of your thought life! Too many in churches today are comfortable with gossiping and slandering their pastors, accusing them of lacking character, accusing them of not doing things the way they think they should be done, and spreading their accusations to others. Often such attitudes start as offense, and offense is a cancer in churches. Offense is often never kept by the one offended, but spread as “concern” about what pastor is doing or where the church is going or the way pastor handled this or that, and that is sin. And, you can tell who has been hanging out with these people, opening their ears and hearts to embracing their offense, because they begin to make the same accusations and statements verbatim.  These actions are NEVER justified by anything you find in the Word! So, choose to live above such gossip, slanderous accusations, and offense. Don’t let another person’s opinions and offense ever enter your ears and don’t give any place for your heart to embrace the sin of taking on someone else’s offense.

We are often quick to judge and criticize our leadership, but I wonder how many of us take the time to understand what our leaders are facing? Hopefully these statistics will open your eyes!

Statistics on Pastors’ Ministry Stress

  • 75% report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed” (1)
  • 90% work between 55 to 75 hours per week (2)
  • 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week (1)
  • 70% say they’re grossly underpaid (2)
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month (1)
  • 78% were forced to resign and 63% at least twice, most commonly because of church conflict (1)
  • 80% will not be in ministry ten years later and only a fraction make it a lifelong career (1)
  • 100% of 1,050 Reformed and Evangelical pastors had a colleague who had left the ministry because of burnout, church conflict, or moral failure (2)
  • 91% have experienced some form of burnout in ministry and 18% say they are “fried to a crisp right now” (7)

Statistics on Pastors’ Emotional Health, Family, and Morality

  • 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they entered ministry (1)
  • 70% constantly fight depression (2)
  • 50% feel so discouraged that they would leave their ministry if they could, but can’t find another job (2)
  • 80% believe their pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 33% said it was an outright hazard (1)
  • 80% of ministry spouses feel left out and unappreciated in their church (2)
  • 77% feel they do not have a good marriage (2)
  • 41% display anger problems in marriage (reported by the spouse) (3)
  • 38% are divorced or divorcing (1)
  • 50% admit to using pornography and 37% report inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church (1)

Statistics on Pastors’ Lack of Care and Training

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend (1)
  • 50% do not meet regularly with an accountability person or group (6)
  • 72% only study the Bible when preparing for sermons or lessons (1)
  • 21% spend less than 15 minutes a day in prayer — the average is 39 minutes per day (4)
  • 16% are “very satisfied” with their prayer life, 47% are “somewhat satisfied”, and 37% are either “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” (spending more time in quiet prayer or listening to God versus making requests was correlated with higher satisfaction) (4)
  • 44% of pastors do not take a regular day off (5)
  • 31% do not exercise at all, while 37% exercise at least three or four days a week as recommended (6)
  • 90% say they have not received adequate training to meet the demands of ministry (2)
  • 85% have never taken a Sabbatical (6)

 

Sources: 

All these surveys are of Protestant pastors from a variety of denominations in America: (1) David Ross and Rick Blackmon’s “Soul Care for Servants” workshop reported the results of their Fuller Institute of Church Growth research study in 1991 and other surveys in 2005 and 2006. (2) Francis A Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development research studies in 1998 and 2006. (3) Leadership Magazine’s research for their article on “Marriage Problems Pastors Face,” Fall 1992 issue. (4) Grey Matter Research, 2005 scientific study of pastors from every city in America. (5) Pastors at Greater Risk by H.B. London and Neil B. Wiseman, Regal Books, 2003. (6) Focus on the Family 2009 survey of 2,000 pastors. (7) Leadership Journal poll of readers, 2013.

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