Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105


Avoiding Burnout as Pastors

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Burnout for pastors is perhaps on of the main reasons why we quit and leave ministry. But we can prevent this!

Burnout for pastors is perhaps on of the main reasons why we quit and leave ministry. But we can prevent this!

            Pastoral ministry and church leadership is a tiring task. It is filled with all kinds of responsibility and unexpected crises. There have been months go by where I was actually bored, when hardly a soul called on me for help. On the other hand, there have been months where there was one crisis after another, where I could hardly take a breath. Sometimes, we manage our time really well and are just tired. Sometimes, we do not manage ourselves well, and we burnout. We may become tired from a big day at church, a big event, an intense program, or a youth retreat. This is not ministry burnout. However, if we keep this up, without checks and balances, and with boundaries, we will burnout without the need for pride and sin. Our own mismanagement will lead us to ruin. I have found myself on this path too many times, until I surrendered not only to our Lord, but I also learned how to delegate and set limits.

            Life today produces far more stress than perhaps any other period of human history. We have more demands, more pressure, more tasks, more information, and more responsibility. At the same time, we have less emotional energy, less support, less encouragement, less help from others, less people listening, and less focus on the "main thing." We get this way because we are a task-oriented society, and have misdirected thinking. Remember what Elijah went through and what he had to overcome. We have a God who loves and cares for us, thus we need to keep the right focus and perspective. Let our strength be drawn from Him, not from our circumstances. We need to keep the focus away from feelings and perception, and toward whom we are in Christ. We cannot be focused on the negative, with a pessimistic outlook, for that makes a bad situation worse, and we may exaggerate a molehill into a mountain. We cannot compare ourselves to others and have unrealistic expectations. Such thinking brings us down into a performance trap from which we may not be able to escape. Thus, we will be unable to distinguish between our call, our abilities, our gifts, and our strengths and misdirected focus, even when it is helping others. We are not all equal in ability, but we all are unique and have a special place in the Kingdom. We each have a special calling that no one else has. Learn it, embrace it, and live for it! Do not fall into the trap of blaming yourself and others, as Elijah did. Overcome, and be your best for God's glory as Elijah was later able to do in an incredible, spectacular fashion.

            So, how can we tell if we are just tired or burnt out? First, we need to ask ourselves the questions from the previous section on Setting Boundaries. If we are doing it, it is probably just exhaustion. However, if we find ourselves being apathetic, and detached from our call and ministry, we have a problem. We have to be on the watch for pride, which will produce a superiority complex. It will make us become careless towards others, then, we will lose our perspective, and what God has called us to do. In addition, either the pride, or the refusal to set boundaries, or a combination of the two, will cause us to fall into burnout and even sexual sin. It is up to the leader to determine if he needs an overhaul, or just a good night's sleep. In addition, that leader needs to have others who feel free to tell him if warning signs appear.  


What To Do To Prevent Burnout 

1.   Pray, and pray a lot. Have others pray for you! Let God in on what you are feeling, and release your frustration to Him. You cannot tell God anything new. He already knows.


2.   Learn to delegate. Remember boundaries and the diseases and dangers we previously discussed.


3.   Keep your attitude in check.


4.   Stay healthy, get regular checkups, eat healthily, rest, and exercise. Guard your time off. We are of little use to God if we are always ill and tired. We are on this earth for such a short time, so keep your focus and your health in check. Do not be in a hurry to get to Heaven. You will get there in due time. Stay focused here on earth, and still keep your hope on our life in Heaven to come.


5.   Have a support base to keep you accountable, people that you can go to and be listened to.


6.   Engage in other interests outside of the ministry, such as biking, hiking, civic events or a hobby.


7.   Make sure you have the right focus and call in your life. Many people are in the wrong vocation, so they are not utilizing their gifts, talent, and abilities. Pastors, too, can be in the wrong profession.


8.   Realize that you are not God, He does not need you, and He only chooses to use you out of grace. Therefore, you are not the Savior to the church, you, and others, are the people He uses.


9.   Be a learner. Read, and go to conferences and retreats where you are not the leader, so you can be refreshed.


10.  Most importantly, be immersed in the Word and prayer.


Burnout means that our spiritual energies are totally exhausted, that we have no will or vitality to do ministry or whatever our task is. We are completely worn-out and spent. Thus, if we stay in our position without being refueled we will just be throwing a monkey wrench into vital components, causing breakage. When the leader is burned out, he becomes the monkey wrench that sabotages the machine of ministry. He may not even desire or be willing to do so. However, because of his lack of availability due to the fact there is nothing left of him, he is of no service, and is, in fact, endangering the vitality and ministry of others. In John 21, Jesus asks Peter to "feed My sheep." We, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are the feed, and as feed, we need to be fed. People depend on us to feed them, and they may drain us of our feed, personally and spiritually. We have to be careful to replenish ourselves with the right feed. If not, we endanger ourselves and the ministry entrusted to us.

 See the rest of our pastoral articles for further help!


Copyright 1988, 1998, 2000, Rev. Richard J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries  

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