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How to Recover from Pastoral Burnout

By Raul Rivera

Pastor Joshua sat at his desk thinking about what he would eat for dinner. Admittedly, he realized that more and more he was watching the minutes wind down to 5:00 p.m., thinking about sitting with his family around the dinner table. As he contemplated spending time with his family, his train of thought was interrupted as his phone rang.

“This is Pastor Joshua,” he answered.

“Hi, Pastor. This is Cristina.”

“Cristina! How are you?”

“Unfortunately, not so good today, Pastor,” she said. “My dad was just in a terrible accident, and we are in the waiting room now. The doctors said that he will be okay in a few weeks, but the whole experience has been traumatizing for our family. We were wondering, can you come by to read a few Scriptures and help console our mother, Patricia? She is very shaken up about the whole thing, and she specifically asked for you.” 

Pastor Joshua was silent for a moment. The image of him sitting with his family at the dinner table with a juicy steak flashed in his mind, but it was pushed away quickly by a soft, “Pastor? Are you still there?”

“Yes, of course, Cristina. I am so sorry to hear about your father. I will be on my way shortly.”

You are not the only pastor that experiences ministry burnout

This scenario can seem all too familiar to many pastors. Whether it is your tenth month or tenth year in ministry, the pastoral call can leave you feeling as though the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Maybe you have compared yourself to other pastors and thought, “They have it all together. Why do I seem to be struggling so much?” Or, perhaps you have wondered to yourself, “Does anyone else feel as worn out as I do?”

Know that you are not alone. You are not the only pastor who has experienced the depth and intensity of pastoral burnout. 

The pastoral burnout epidemic

Being a pastor is not for the faint of heart. Pastors are often expected to fulfill multiple roles. Most of the time you are the pastor, but at other times, you serve as the church administrator, janitor, bookkeeper, handyman, groundskeeper, and everything in between. 

However, you have been called by the Creator of the universe for such a time as this. Sadly, it has become all too easy to overwork ourselves. This can result in the neglect of our families, friends, downtime, and most importantly, a personal relationship with Christ. Yet, with all of the day’s responsibilities, who has time for anything else?

Although you are called to work as unto the Lord, it is important to remember that you are also called to rest unto Him.

5 ways to recover from (and prevent) pastoral and ministry burnout

Undoubtedly, our restful downtime will likely get pushed further and further down your to-do list. However, there are a few restful activities that can help you recover from pastoral burnout, and can significantly prevent it in the future, when done regularly and intentionally.

Here are some examples of these restful activities.

1. Make time for yourself

This may seem like a “no brainer.” Usually, the no-brainer ideas get pushed to the side, but they can make the most impact. Making time for yourself can look like a number of things, and it can be as often as you feel necessary.

Set aside time once a week, whether it is just a few hours or a whole day for yourself. During this time, you can do any number of things that bring you joy and rest. Maybe you catch the latest movie, read a good book, attend a sporting event, or do something else that you would find relaxing.

Most importantly, make sure that at some point during this time you spend time with the Lord. As a pastor, you spend much of your time pouring into others. As a result, it is all the more important that you take time to allow the Lord to pour into you.

2. Talk to, not at, your spouse

Sometimes it feels impossible to talk to your spouse about anything other than what has been bothering you, a problem that needs to be solved with the kids, or the stress from the office. However, creating the time to play a card game, make dinner together, and catch up on the little things in life that get lost are great ways to rest and feel connected with your spouse.

I truly think that having a healthy marriage is one of the keys to having a strong and successful ministry. 

3. Build up a team of individuals to protect your blindside

Most, if not all, pastors enter the ministry with a passion for reaching the lost and for  seeings lives transformed for eternity. The majority of pastors receive some type of training (whether it be formally or informally) to prepare them for ministry. However, these ministers quickly realize that out of all the training they received, the areas in which they feel completely unprepared are church compliance and administration.

For many ministers, church compliance and administration are the root cause of many sleepless nights. You may agree that they are the “blindside” of ministry with which you need help. Whether it be with bylaws, pastoral compensation, bookkeeping, or obtaining 501(c)(3) status, you could use help.

4. Exercise regularly

This does not mean that you have to do anything too strenuous, but going on a simple walk can have huge gains. For instance, a recent study conducted by Stanford University showed that “a person's creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.”

Activating the creative side of your brain allows your logic and reasoning to take a breather. Taking one hour out of your week to go on a walk or run can balance both parts of the brain. When you have been in a constant state of problem-solving, a little exercise goes a long way.

5. Take time to have fun with family and close friends

How often do you spend quality time with friends and family? It is important to respect the rejuvenating qualities that our friends and family bring to our lives. Create time in your schedule to be with the people who really know you; you will not regret it!

The goal of restfulness: to expose and to recharge

Ephesians 5:13 says, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light." 

It is easy to keep the good, the bad, and the ugly cooped up inside. However, when you rest and recharge, those buried fears and insecurities that stifle your ministry rise to the surface and slowly fall off of you.

Suddenly, you start to feel like yourself again. You gain a new perspective on your life and ministry and no longer feel alone. Rest provides us with so much more than we realize, and it is time to take full advantage of its benefits!

Working with pastors, we can certainly empathize with the stresses of daily responsibilities and feeling tugged in a million different directions. It seems like the last thing on your mind is compliance and bookkeeping-related matters.

There are many things that only you will be able to handle. But there will be times when you cannot handle it alone. For such times, there is StartCHURCH. Let us help ease your administrative burden. Give us a call at 877-494-4655 or click on the button below to talk to one of our specialists. Let us cover your blindside.

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