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29 May 2018

How to Prevent Ministry Burnout

Raul Rivera

Being a pastor is one of the most prestigious callings God places on one’s life. The life and responsibilities of being a pastor, however, are not for the faint of heart.

It is not uncommon for pastors to be overworked and under appreciated. The job of being a pastor does not simply begin and end at the office or once the worship service has concluded.

Rather, it permeates the very being of each individual who answers the call, thus resulting in a nearly 24/7 position.

Much of a pastor’s responsibilities involve his/her spiritual life, character, demeanor, education, training, and attitude.

In addition, a pastor is responsible for preaching/teaching, vision casting, praying and caring for the congregation, and, in many instances, attending to the business affairs and ministry programming of the church.

With all of this on one’s shoulders, it is no wonder many in the ministry experience burnout.

As a pastor, I experienced that same exhaustion and feeling of despair. Because of that, and the opportunity that I have to interact with many pastors on a regular basis across the country, I feel that it is necessary to dedicate a post to pastoral burnout.

Although this is in no way an exhaustive list, I want to address 3 reasons why pastors may feel burned out, and then I want to provide each reason with a preventative tip.

3 common reasons for ministry burnout

Burnout reason #1: critical church members

Oftentimes, one of the greatest sources of burnout for a pastor can come from the very people that he or she serves on a weekly basis - church members.

These are the folks for which you often stay up late praying. These are the individuals for whom you wake up in the middle of the night when there is an emergency.

You love these individuals with all of your being, but at times their criticism can almost seem overwhelming and unbearable.

Still, you find yourself time and again suppressing the hurt and aggravation that their criticism has caused because it is what you feel you are supposed to do. You reason that it is your job as a pastor to simply not let stuff like that bother you.

Yet, in your humanity, oftentimes their words can begin to eat away at the shield you have established to protect yourself from such comments.

At times, the comments and criticism can seem so overwhelming that it leads to unhealthy levels of stress.

That is not a part of the plan God had in mind when he called you into the ministry.

As the Scriptures say, He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Let us look at how you can address the stress of critical members before it becomes overwhelming.

Preventative tip: be patient and pray

When someone speaks badly of you, it is easy to want to become defensive and respond back in the same manner.

However, in the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.” (Matt. 5:44, MSG)

Therefore, it is imperative to respond to these critics with prayer.

Additionally, the Scriptures tell us that we “should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

When we respond in prayer, we are releasing the burden of holding on to those hurtful comments. Through prayer you are trading the burdens of the world for that of Christ’s, whose “yoke is easy and burden is light.”

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Burnout reason #2: exhaustion (physically, spiritually, and emotionally)

The job of being a pastor is taxing in every way possible: physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

You are always looking out for the needs of others. Not only are you concerned about ministering to everyone’s spiritual needs from the pulpit, you are also attempting to meet the physical needs of individuals through different ministries of the church.

Your job is continually on-the-go, serving others, which makes it very easy to forget about yourself.

If you do not address the exhaustion you are experiencing, it can lead not only to quick burnout, but also to poor health physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Preventative tip: be intentional about resting

Throughout the Gospels, we see that every time Jesus was done ministering, he went away to be with the Father and rest.

If Jesus took the time to escape from all of the “‘doing” of ministry, how much more do you need to escape for a time of rest?

But rest will not just simply happen. You must be intentional about seeking your rest.

Sometimes, sleep can be the best spiritual thing you do for your church.

If you are exhausted, stressed, and not well-rested, what good will you be for your church, your congregation, or even your family?

Make sure that you intentionally set time aside so that you can rest physically, refuel spiritually, and rejuvenate emotionally.

Burnout reason #3: you are one person . . . wearing many hats

The idiom of “wears many hats” most commonly refers to someone who has many different roles, responsibilities, and/or tasks to perform.

It is not uncommon for pastors to “wear many hats.”

This is especially true amongst church planters.

Many pastors are not only having to prepare Sunday’s sermon, but also prepare the church’s bulletins, maintain the church’s website, organize activities/outreaches, attend meetings, and much, much more.

With little to no help, it is no wonder that many new pastors are quickly finding themselves burned out.

Preventative tip: utilize the gifts and talents of those around you

I know that this tip can be easier said than done, but it is a simple fact that you need help with your ministry.

You cannot do all and be all. And that is okay!

There must come a time in your ministry when you let go and begin to trust those that God has brought to your church, allowing them to help you fulfill the dream and vision that God has placed on your heart.

When you allow others to help you fulfill the call that God has placed on your life, you begin to have more time for your family and more time to rest.

You also begin to see more lives changed and transformed for the better through your church and ministry.

One last tip

As a former pastor, I completely understand the stress of daily responsibilities. I know what it is like to be “tugged” in a million different directions at once.

I also know what it is like to try and tackle all of the compliance and legal responsibilities on my own. It is not fun!

There are statistics that estimate it to take one person up to 150 hours to complete the entire 501(c)(3) process. I might be wrong, but I imagine that none of you have 150 hours to spare. That is where we can help!

Give us a call and ask to speak with one of our team members and find out how we can help you and your ministry.

Lastly, I want to invite you to join us at one of our Ultimate Church Structure Conferences to invest back into yourself and the dreams God has placed in your heart.

Register for a Conference Today!

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera

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About the Author

Church Planter. Speaker. Author. CEO. Raul Rivera has had ample experience in the church planting world. His current venture, StartCHURCH, has helped 1000's of churches to start right. Raul has compiled an array of manuals and software tools that help churches stay compliant with the IRS. He also hosts over 35 national conferences per year, training pastors on how to launch their churches. Raul is married to his wife Genel, and they and their five children live in Atlanta, GA.