Pastors and burnout


Just returned from a wonderful time with a group of pastors on retreat in the Poconos. I was invited to speak to them about burnout, the stress of ministry, and the need to be preventive in caring for their own souls (and their family as well). What makes for a good retreat? Competitive volleyball, good meals, laughter, singing, and open sharing of struggles as well as ideas for maintaining one’s emotional and spiritual health.

Singing. My first experience at Westminster Seminary (as a student) was in a chapel. I thoroughly enjoyed the hearty singing of hymns and songs in a male dominated environment. No weak and lame sounds. It was the same at this retreat. What good treatment for the soul. They sang before meals as well as at each session.

One of the challenges they addressed was the finding of regular and frequent support/accountability/discipleship. While they like each other they are all too busy to be regularly connected to each other in a deep way (beyond retreats and other business meetings).

What if churches and their boards really took seriously the need to care for (directly or indirectly) the spiritual needs of the pastor family? How might that change the dynamics of church life?

I have to say the highlight for me was the surprise laying on of hands to pray for myself and my family. Utterly moving.

And if there are those of you who have grown suspicious that pastors refuse to be human, and are frauds…I can tell you this bunch is a healthy, albeit worn out, set of pastors. And they love Jesus to boot 🙂

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership

4 responses to “Pastors and burnout

  1. Jess

    I have to rib you a bit for describing women’s singing as “weak and lame.” Mine certainly is, but Susan Boyle may beg to differ.

    In all seriousness, though, I too am praying for you and your family and wanted you to know that… after I finished ribbing you, of course.

  2. Jess, thanks for your prayers. And thanks for pointing out my implicit, but not intended, meaning about weak and lame singing. Actually, the weak and lame singing I was referring to is the weak and lame male voices. With no bass/tenor lines in so many church situations, the resonance isn’t there.

    I think that is why I like Black Gospel music so much. The resonance and volume is fabulous!

  3. karenestelle

    I hope there was no talk of their reward being in heaven, or quoting of “well done my good and faithful servant”. 🙂 Another pastor’s wife said to me the other day: “We might be the only ones disappointed in heaven. We’ll be standing there looking around saying ‘Really? This is it? This is what we went through all that stuff for?'” Of course, we were kidding… mostly…

  4. Scott Knapp

    Was Jim Meyer there? I know he pastors in that area, and that’s a field he spends a bit of time practicing in.

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