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The Advocate Newsletter
Summer 2014


The Burn-out Issue


7 Reasons Pastors Burnout


by Thom Rainer


I have the incredible opportunity to interact with pastors regularly. In recent conversations, I asked two questions. First, have you ever experienced burnout in your ministry? Second, what do you do to prevent pastoral burnout?


Interestingly, every pastor with whom I spoke had experienced some level of burnout. And so they spoke from the voice of experience when they shared with me what they do to prevent burnout today. I aggregated their responses to seven keys to preventing pastoral burnout, not in any particular order or priority.


1. Remember your call. Ministry can be tough and dirty. It can be frustrating and confusing. But if we remember Who called us and Who sustains us, we are able to persevere. We understand that we are not doing ministry in our own power.


2. Pray for your critics. Criticism in one of the most frequently mentioned causes of burnout. Pastors on the other side of burnout told me that they have learned to pray for their critics almost every day. It has given the pastors a fresh perspective. A few pastors even noted significant change in their critics shortly after they started praying for them.


3. Wait a day before responding to critics. Somewhat related to number two above, some pastors shared that ministry began to take its toll when they engaged their critics negatively in writing, in person, or by phone. Now these pastors wait a full day before responding, and they are amazed at how differently their responses take shape.


4. Be intentional about down time. Pastors need it. Their families need it. Every week. Don't skip vacations. Go on occasional retreats. Don't lose your family by trying to save your church.


5. Find a friend to share your burden. For some pastors, it was another pastor. For others, it was a retired pastor. Some mentioned that key confidants in the church had become their best friends. Pastors need someone they trust to whom they can unload their burdens.


6. Do not neglect your prayer life. Pastors told me repeatedly that, as their prayer life waned, their burnout increased. Prayer was first ongoing conversations with God. But it was also a time for spiritual refueling.


7. Do not neglect your time in the Word. We heard similar stories from pastors who began neglecting their time in the Bible. As that time waned, burnout increased. All the pastors noted that time in the Word was time beyond sermon preparation. It was a time of personal devotion and study.


Pastors are burning out every day. Many are leaving the ministry as a result. It is a real and immediate problem with many pastors and many churches.


Pastors and other staff: Do you have stories of burnout and recovery? What lessons can we learn from you?


Laypersons: What can you do to help pastors prevent burnout?

A Word to Pastor Advocates

greg green background

By Greg Twitchell

Boom!  The explosion was instantaneous.  The fraction of a second that it took for the flame from the gas stove to singe all the facial hair off of my face was astounding.  I had shut off the gas to the grill in my father's restaurant to clean it.  When I was finished, I turned the gas back on and slowly worked my arm into the space under the burners to light the pilot.  When I clicked the lighter, the gas that had built up ignited and blew back into my face.  It took 3 weeks for me to grow back my eyebrows, eyelashes and goatee and I smelled of burnt hair for a couple of days. Sometimes I do things that in hindsight were not the wisest of choices. 


50% of Pastors will experience something similar.  They will work and work and work, till "BOOM!" everything explodes and they get burnt.  It may or may not be an "explosion" but their enthusiasm, energy, drive, passion and love for ministry may go up in a puff of smoke.  Burnout is a serious issue among Pastors today, and the sad part is, I believe it is preventable.  There are a number of resources, books and articles that speak to Pastoral Health.  I have selected several for this newsletter, and I believe that Thom Rainer's seven practices to prevent burnout are very helpful.


The point is, if your doctor told you that you have a 1 in 2 chance of contracting a serious disease that could ruin your career, would you listen to him?  If he said it was preventable, would you pay attention?  If he gave a prescription, would you take notes?  Of course we would.  Unfortunately, when it comes to ministry, many are blinded by the idea that "God will protect me because I am doing spiritual work."  If this were so, how come it has affected so many other pastors already.  Advocates, we need you to check in with your Pastor(s).  Ask the tough questions like:

-       how many hours are you averaging?

-       are you faithfully taking a day off each week?

-       are you investing in your marriage?

-       who are your friends, do you spend quality time with them?

-       are you getting enough rest and exercise?

-       how much vacation time do you have planned this year?

-       who is your mentor?

-       if your soul had a gas gauge, how full is your tank?


If you don't ask the tough questions of your Pastor who will?  When he or she burns out, how far back will it set the church? Wouldn't some preventive maintenance be better than a melt down?  Pastors are a tough breed.  When they have a Shepherds heart, they often will put others before themselves or their family.  This may be okay in short spurts, but it is not a healthy lifestyle.  Pray for your Pastor, understand the warning signs of burnout, check in and ask the tough questions from time to time.  In the long run, they will be glad you did! 


Ron Edmundson


1. Isolation.

When the leader begins to avoid others, something is wrong. Leadership involves people. Not all leaders are overly communicative, but when the leader tries to avoid people who need the leader's attention, something is wrong. Some leaders begin to question people around them. They struggle with mistrust or fear that others are talking about them, questioning them or out to get them. 


2. Excuses.

When the leader always has an answer to why he or she was late, blames others for everything or can't see his or her own shortcomings, they are struggling with something. It may be burnout.  




 3. Hidden sins.

Many people hide in their sins, but burnout causes "secret," deep sins. These are often new vices hidden from people who normally know you.  The person who never drank before ... is now drinking often. Someone who never struggled with pornorgraphy before suddenly can't avoid it ... and justifies it as a "release." 


4. Apathy.

When you don't care anymore. And, you don't really care that you don't care anymore. 


5. Indecisiveness.

Paralization ... a refusal to make decisions. The person in this condition feels like every decision is a major one.  And, there seem to be so many ... they make none. 


6. Short-tempered.

Normally easy-going people often become shorter-fused when under extreme pressure. 


7. Desperation.

When every day seems to be a panic day ... beware. The leader is in a danger zone.  There will be seasons of this in all of our lives, but we can't live there long. We need periods of calm in our leadership. If the leader always feels this way, something is wrong. 

1,500 pastors per month leave their churches because of burnout, church conflict, or moral failure. Just under 50 percent of pastors say they have experienced depression and burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.

Recommended Reading

Why Pastors Quit by Bo Lane

The Advocate Newsletter is published as a ministry of the Eastern Regional Association of the Advent Christian General Conference.


Gregory Twitchell, Superintendent,

Carolyn Schaeffner, Administrative Secretary, 


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