When a shepherd tends to his sheep, he goes all out to ensure that they are adequately fed and taken care of; he keeps them safe and secure.
We are always concerned about the sheep, but never the shepherd- why? We have programmed ourselves to believe that he is self-sufficient. If that were true, wishes would be horses.
The stress associated with church leadership lies more heavily on the Pastor; that is a known fact. If he has the chance to delegate, then it is reduced by a small leap. That is the reason they must be cared for duly, as they answered an urgent call to service- one that many might believe has worthy compensations. We will debunk some myths here today. Let us start with some statistics.
According to recent data from Pastoral Care Incorporation, 72% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week pre-Covid. 84% of these pastors feel they work round the clock receiving or making phone calls. 65% feel their families live in “glass houses” and fear they are not good enough to meet certain expectations, while 66% of church members expect their leader and his family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves. Isn’t this more than enough pressure on an entire community, much more an Individual? Even though 90% of pastors convinced themselves that they are doing what God has called them to be, it doesn’t stop them from experiencing stress.
Burnout is a big deal. Typically anyone in any profession can experience it, but those who serve in churches in leaders are particularly susceptible. Possibly, almost everyone who has been in ministry long enough has had the thought of staying back at home on a service day. A pastor once told me that the pace is unyielding, the needs are endless, and the expectation to always have the answer for every question is ever-present. I had a heavy heart listening to him, not because of what he said, but the feelings with which he said it. He made a valid point that made me begin to question if Clergy appreciation would ever be enough as a measure of pastoral care.
When you are serving God, helping people find Jesus, making sure people discover their mission and purpose in life, you are doing a phenomenal job. When the Pastor is having feats of stress, the church will be affected. Then, you will have to deal with gossips, a decline in church membership growth, and probably even money issues. That will compound to more pressure, and then you will get deeper into the burnout phase. No one benefits from ministry burnout, and that is why I have curated these three tips on preventing them.
1. CREATE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Do you know that the CEO of a multinational organization has more time for relaxation than the Pastor of a growing church? Hands down, running a church is a tough job. You should have all the appropriate answers and care for everyone with no exception. Essentially in the early years of building, you are on call 24 hours a day, attending to everyone but yourself. You don’t have an administrative staff or an associate pastor. You have to do the hospital visits, the weddings, the funerals, and special services all on your own. Let me even ask you this: As the Pastor of a growing church, when last did you plan a romantic getaway with your wife or a vacation with your family?
The bigger the church becomes, the more stress you acquire. It doesn’t reduce with growth. The best remedy is to create a work-life balance. How can you achieve this with duties piling up and almost falling off your plate?
Your spouse is your unique support system. This person is your accountability partner. This person prays for and with you, someone with whom you can share anything. Never give them a chance to think they do not matter. Schedule regular dates to check with one another on how you are handling stress and the demands of your job. That is vital: it is a wholesome prevention strategy for burnout.
Prioritize family time and make an allowance for it within your schedule. Before you ask, let me answer: No, you are not leaving work undone. You are taking time off to refresh so that you can come back to work stronger. That is easy. All you have to do is deploy an automated system that ensures you are not lagging in your duties. If yours is an older church, work hand in hand with your leaders to keep the boat sailing; and be on top of everything digitally. Technology has become a handy tool for the propagation of the gospel. Leverage it beyond social media.
2. AMPLIFY YOUR LEARNING AND BE READY TO DELEGATE
Rest is more than having 8 hours of sleep per night. Most times, Pastors are nervous that their absence would mean a lag in getting things done. As much as you don’t want to miss an opportunity to meet the needs of someone who is hurting, and you enjoy celebrating the joyous occasions of life with your congregation, you cannot accomplish these tasks alone. Create buddy-type programs to avoid overlooking people in need. Find others who can help with visitation, letter writing, or other duties. Remember, people enjoy caregiving and would be happy to volunteer. The keyword is DELEGATE.
Also, it is relatively easy for the well to run dry when we are not constantly replenishing it. If you are going to stay fresh and afloat, you need to continue learning. Every Pastor in charge of a church develops themselves by reading books, blogs, and podcasts. An additional suggestion would be to consider going for an out-of-town retreat a couple of times a year to learn more and share knowledge. By doing this, you are clearing your mind and allowing yourself to have fresh thoughts.
3. GET COUNSELLING
It is not a failure to seek counseling. Sometimes when pastors talk to someone else about the darkest, driest, most hidden parts of our soul—there is a higher likelihood that they will find healing and freedom before making a choice that will sideline their ministry. Pastors and counselors are more prone to burnout because of their desire and role in society to be people helpers. They often give beyond their physical and emotional resources because they don’t know when to pause and replenish. We strongly recommend that pastors should do a stop-and-check counseling session as often as possible. ChurchPad has available resources waiting for your dial- your demo session is free.
What if there is no universal strategy that defeats burnout? What if there is a different strategy for every individual? Perhaps there are different strategies for the stages of our lives. The most important thing is recognizing the personal signs that tell you that burnout is approaching; quench the fire before it kills everything in sight.