Pastoral burnout is more common than we like to admit
There are many reasons that pastors experience burnout – whether it be temporary or long-term. Burnout can occur due to conflict with other pastoral staff, the death of a pastor’s spouse, not enough “down time” (e.g., vacations or sabbaticals), family problems, a perceived or real lack of fruitfulness in ministry, loneliness, lack of pastoral care for the pastor, too little time to manage responsibilities, etc.
When someone experiences pastor burnout they can be unfairly critical of themselves and others, experience depression, have a decrease in energy, be pessimistic, experience a high level of exhaustion, etc.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing pastoral burnout, let me share with you five pieces of counsel that have assisted me in the past.
Yes, I did say “assisted me,” because there have been very brief times when I have experienced burnout – 1-2 days. And these truths have encouraged and “lifted my spirits” out of the spiritual exhaustion.
First, remind yourself that God manages things you cannot. “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (II Cor 1:8-10).
Second, recall the encouraging works of God in the present and past. “11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. 15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” (Ps 77:11-15).
Third, delegate ministry responsibilities as you are able. “21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (Exod 18:21-23).
Fourth, give thanks as often as you can. “1 Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?” (Ps 106:1-2).
Fifth, remember that God is enough to sustain you. “Then he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. …” (II Cor 12:9a).