I’ve spoken on this topic for the past several years and have shared thoughts on this blog about the unique stresses of being a pastor or being in a pastor’s family. During the AACC conference I was able to attend Michael and Kari MacKenzie’s presentation (Marble Retreat counselors). Here’s what they had to say…very much mirroring what I had just taught on several days ago.
Michael’s dissertation research on the topic resulted in the following list as the “top 6” most significant struggles in ministry
1. Stress, 2. Burnout, 3. Marital Problems, 4. Sexual Problems (infidelity, porn, etc.), 5. Depression, 6. Conflict (family or ministry). Interestingly, if you are on a missionary team, #6 is really #1.
What are the prime causes, according to their research?
1. Isolation, 2. Unrealistic Expectations, 3. Poor Boundaries.
I would comment here that these are not really causes but deeper layers may need to be discovered. Just why does the ministry leader have unrealistic expectations, poor boundaries, etc.? What is driving these issues? Some of those reasons can be found in the culture as well as in the desires of the pastor/leader. For example, a refusal to be vulnerable may be causal…as well as a congregation’s expectation that pastors never need help.
What helps protect pastors from massive stress? According to Mark McMinn: 1. a Personal Devotion to Christ (outside of sermon prep), 2. Hobbies, 3. Exercise, 4. Regular Time Away, 5. a Good Marriage.
The 64,000 question:
Why don’t pastors (why don’t we all) do the most basic things we know are good for them? Why don’t we exercise and eat well? Why don’t we take time away? Why don’t we get enough sleep? Why don’t we maintain a healthy devotional life? Rarely is it a matter of not knowing how to do these things. If you find yourself not doing basic self-care, ask yourself this: what other motives take priority in my life? Some other goal/motivation is getting in the way. What is it? When you can answer that question then you have a greater chance to decide what you are going to do about it.