ARE YOU EXHAUSTED?

a man who is sitting and appears to be in distress.

ARE YOU EXHAUSTED?

Written By Dr. Jason Robertson

ARE YOU EXHAUSTED?

Exhaustion stands at the forefront as the leading cause of burnout among pastors.  The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD, describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” He warns that we should look for the following signs of burnout:

  • Exhaustion … mental, emotional, and physical.
  • Lack of Motivation … about anything and everything.
  • Frustration, Cynicism, and Other Negative Emotions … more pessimistic than usual.
  • Cognitive Problems … hard to concentrate.
  • Slipping Job Performance … not as good at your job as you once were.
  • Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work … either more heated arguments or more seasons of withdrawal.
  • Not Taking Care of Yourself … unhealthy self-medication or eating habits.
  • Being Preoccupied with Work … when you’re not at work.
  • Generally Decreased Satisfaction … with career and life in general.
  • Health Problems … digestive issues, heart disease, depression, and obesity.

BURNOUT IS TRENDING

Surveys from reputable sources such as the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and the Barna Group have revealed startling statistics: a significant portion of clergy are considering leaving their pastoral positions, driven by the cumulative pressures and relentless demands of their roles. Notably, a Barna survey from fall 2023 indicated that more than 40% of clergy had contemplated leaving their congregations, and over half had thought about departing the ministry altogether.

This rising trend of pastoral burnout is deeply concerning, reflecting not just the impact of the pandemic but also longstanding issues like declining church attendance, a decrease in volunteerism, and congregational resistance to change. Many pastors express feelings of isolation and exhaustion as they strive to engage their communities and welcome new members, often facing significant barriers.

OUR LORD CARES

The Scriptures provide solace and guidance during such trying times. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus extends an invitation of rest to those who are weary and burdened, offering His yoke as one that is easy and His burden as light, promising rest for the soul. Likewise, Galatians 6:2 calls believers to bear one another’s burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ, which emphasizes the importance of mutual support within the body of Christ.

THE QUITTING MYTH

It’s essential to recognize that the path to quitting the pastoral role is not always tied to moral failure. Exhaustion, disillusionment, and a desire to protect one’s family and personal well-being can drive well-intentioned pastors to consider stepping down. Even well-organized leaders can find themselves with more demand than resources to meet those demands, and that is an unhealthy situation.

Leadership responsibilities, constant availability, and the “glass house” nature of pastoral life also contribute to burnout. The knowledge of the deep and often hidden struggles within a congregation—a burden that cannot be easily shared or delegated—adds a profound weight to pastoral ministry. Pastors are often stretched thin, helping everyone else without enough time or energy to care for themselves or their own families. Sometimes, a leader needs a break … for all the right reasons!

THE PATH FORWARD

The path forward involves creating a church culture that values the well-being of its leaders recognizing the necessity of rest, support, and spiritual renewal. Churches and denominational bodies, like the California Southern Baptist Convention, play a crucial role in providing resources, including sabbaticals and retreats designed to rejuvenate pastors both spiritually and physically. Contact the Church Matters team today – https://csbc.com/church-matters/

As the Christian community grapples with the reality of pastoral burnout, it’s vital to lean into the biblical principles of rest, renewal, and communal support. By doing so, churches can help sustain their leaders, ensuring they have the strength, health, and spiritual vitality to continue serving effectively.

For further reading and resources on addressing pastoral burnout and supporting church leaders, visit the following links (these articles were used for sourcing the facts in the article above):

Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/04/01/10-signs-youre-burning-out-and-what-to-do-about-it/?sh=24df80d1625b

Christian Post – https://www.christianpost.com/news/over-half-of-american-pastors-have-considered-quitting-poll.html

Barna – https://www.barna.com/research/hopeful-increases-pastors/

Religion News –  https://religionnews.com/2024/01/11/us-pastors-struggle-with-post-pandemic-burnout-survey-shows-half-considered-quitting-since-2020/

Lifeway Resources – https://research.lifeway.com/tag/pastor-burnout/

CSBC article: https://csbc.com/resource/leading-on-the-fringes-of-burnout/

In navigating these challenges, it’s crucial to remember that the journey of ministry is one we undertake together, supported by the grace of God and the fellowship of believers, each playing a part in upholding and encouraging one another in our shared calling.

About the Author

Dr. Jason Robertson
Pastor, Huntington Beach Church

Dr. Jason Robertson serves as the Church Matters Team Leader of the California Southern Baptist Convention, helping churches stay healthy. He is also an elder of Huntington Beach Church. Jason has over 20 years of ministry experience in California, including pastoring, coaching leaders, and planting and revitalizing churches.

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