Why do pastors burn out? It’s epidemic. The average stay of a man in full-time ministry has dwindled to 18 months. Isn’t ministey suppose to be based on calling? Isn’t it suppose to be a blessed life? ‘Supposed to be’ may be key here. Of course, the Bible teaches that ministry and even just living a godly life will accumulate suffering a persecution. We see that in the lives of the apostles and early church fathers. Yet, they endured, many to their deaths. What has changed, or what is going on today?
I can’t speak for generations past. I’ve been a pastor since 2002. I was a young 21 year old when I entered full-time ministry. A newly wed at that! For the past 14 years I’ve experienced and endured my fair share of reasons to burn out and I’ve watched several of my colleagues do just that. I’ve identified at least 4 general reasons.
In ministry, diet is seldom mentioned. Pastors are commonly obese and suffering from from sugar related illness. Wit our schedules as hectic and busy as they are, spending hours on the road or with church members, our diet usually takes a back seat. Fast food, snacks, and pot lucks tend to make up our menu and eventually catch up with us. The lack of nutrition WILL and does play a huge role in our burn out because it’s something that has massive consequences on our health yet it goes unnoticed.
I’ve been guilty here as well. I’ve spent nights staying up to counsel members, and up again early to get back to work. It took years for me to learn and realize how important a good, restful, and uninterrupted night of sleep is to our entire health. For me, it’s hard to get my mind to shut off and relax. Actually, I never really saw sleep and important until it took its toll on me.
Seminary doesn’t teach exercise science. Pastors exercise faith, not bodies! Well this had been detrimental to our health and led to many pastors hitting the wall. Without exercise we lack energy, regulated hormone responses to life and environmental situations, and bodies that perform optimally for every day function. So many pastors are overweight and undernourished.
Relationships can make or break a pastor. As he is shepherding a multitude of people and their problems, who is shepherding his? Who is encouraging him? Who is counseling him? Usually no one. And here’s a little secret, every day a pastor is hurting and stresses over the unhealthy or broken relationships in his church. There’s is always someone who is upset at him, unhappy at his performance, or just un-friending him. He has built and poured into relationships that fail. It’s stressful to say the least. Relationship pressure is life consuming and I can tell you, it’s easy to give up when you’ve had enough.
There has to be something done to change this. We have to start looking in places we’ve not usually looked to stop this epidemic. Pastoral health. And I don’t just mean spiritually.