5 Proven Ways to Avoid Pastoral Burnout

Written by Laura Archambault on Jul 22, 2021 in Pastoral Helps

Read Time: 4 minutes

Burnout seems to be the buzzword of the month. You've probably felt burned out before. It can be overwhelming—like drowning. It can feel like nothing matters anymore. And ministry leaders are especially susceptible.

If you've ever felt this, Pastor, you need a lifeline! Read on to avoid burnout using the right perspective and five practical tips.

What is burnout?

There's no singular definition, but HelpGuide.org's definition is helpful and clear: "Emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress." Originally, burnout referred to those in care professions like doctors. Increasingly, experts recognize the impact of "excessive and prolonged stress" in any career and even relationship roles like parenting. 

By nature, pastors and ministry leaders are highly susceptive to burnout. Why? Because you are willing to answer the call of God despite the personal sacrifice. You rock! But we want to equip you to draw a line between dying to yourself and spiritual death.

What causes burnout?

Stress is a massive contributor to burnout. Anything dangerous or exciting requires your A-game. So your body kicks in with cortisol: a hormone that increases your focus and physical ability. How beautifully God has designed our bodies! 

But our bodies aren't meant to stay in a stressful state, and too much cortisol for too long has some serious side effects.

 Other contributors to burnout include:

  • Lifestyle factors
    • Lack of sleep
    • No support system
    • A role that conflicts with your values
  • Personality factors
    • Perfectionism
    • Drive for high achievement

Why is burnout so dangerous?

Physically, prolonged stress and burnout can kill you. I'm only being a little dramatic; the health repercussions of stress are serious.

Emotionally, burnout is just as dangerous. Depression, anxiety, and isolation can steal your ability to thrive, not to mention your desire to live.

And spiritually, burnout can isolate us from God and others, stunting our growth and preventing us from being effective ministers of the gospel.

I have five practical tips to defeat burnout. But first, we need to talk about my #1 tip: perspective.

Perspective: save yourself first

If you follow the five practical tips rigorously but don't have perspective, you will still battle burnout.

When I was a lifeguard, we had to learn how to fight off drowning victims. We actually practiced wrestling in the water. It sounds heartless, but it is natural for someone drowning to latch onto the person trying to rescue them. If you can't get the victim to release, you may both drown. So we practiced getting away and reapproaching the victim so we could rescue them with the proper hold.

If you are so busy in ministry that you can't hear God's voice reassuring, strengthening, and sustaining you, it's time to wrestle away before you drown. Put everything on hold while you seek God.

Don't keep up the ministry in vain. Get reconnected with Jesus first. You may have to postpone some tasks to get spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy. If the task list doesn't get finished because you're reconnecting, the tasks weren't essential in the first place. Just ask Martha. She heard from Jesus directly that her duties were not as important as sitting at His feet.

It may be time to take some of your duties off of your shoulders, Pastor. You weren’t meant to do it all. Are you worried about finances and overwhelmed with managing the ministry’s money? Or maybe you are in need of a compensation package to help you take a vacation or receive a steady salary. Whether you need someone reliable to handle your books for you or help creating a generous salary agreement, we would love to serve you. Give us a call at 877-494-4655.


5 proven and practical tips

Once you've set your perspective toward saving yourself first, here are five ways to avoid burnout.

1. Healthy habits: food & exercise

When you don't have enough energy, it's easy to feel burned out and demotivated. Exercising and eating healthy foods (less sugar, fats, and preservatives, more vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids) can do wonders for your mood and energy. 

2. Encouragement

It can be powerful to spend time with others, as long as they are positive people who encourage rather than add to your stress level. Seek a support system that can provide encouragement and love.

3. Relaxation

When you need to lower your stress levels, use calming sensory inputs and learn relaxation techniques like breathing, prayer, and meditation.

4. Practice gratitude

Meaning and purpose help combat burnout. Keep your sense of meaning and purpose by celebrating wins, sharing testimonials, and expressing gratitude.

5. Sleep

Adequate sleep can have a profound effect on your stress tolerance, your performance, your mood, and your energy levels. Practice healthy sleep habits!

From barely treading to thriving

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

If you do not see the relief and improvement you've wanted, but you're so overwhelmed you're tempted to walk away, try it. Walk away. Don't leave what God has called you to. Just wrestle away so He can minister to you and then reapproach things. We all go through seasons where it feels like we're barely treading. But God can equip you to thrive!

At StartCHURCH, we love seeing churches thrive and their leaders thrive! If you want to see growth this summer, we've got lots of resources. Call us today at 877-494-4655 to ask how we can help your church grow.


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Raul Rivera

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