I’ve written here several times on the topic of pastoral burnout and the need for prevention and renewal for ministry leaders. I came across this opinion piece in the NY Times suggesting that congregants may be a big part of the problem. Consider some of the following quotes by the author (a pastor who may have had problems in his own congregation that bias him a bit). Emphases are mine.
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.
As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.
Ouch. His words about the demand for experiential highs are pointed, especially the ones about missions trips as sightseeing events.
The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.
I suspect this is one part of the pie. But let us not blame the congregants too much. They want to be part of something great and most pastors want to be something great. The two sides mutually support this kind of problem.
If you read the full-text you will see a link for another recently published editorial about clergy burnout. You can read that one here. There are a number of other resources you can find as hot links embedded in that essay. One factoid is a recent study of North Carolinian Methodist pastors are found to be significantly more obese than the general population of the state. Makes you go hmmm.