Jun 20, 2012

Reflections on Clergy Burnout

I love being a pastor.

That doesn't mean that it's easy.

It's just I know I'm doing what I've been created to do and be. I am most fully alive when I am living out my calling as a pastor.

That's the thing about callings. Whether you are a doctor, teacher, stay-at-home mom, student, etc., when you are doing what God created you to do, you come alive. You live life with passion and purpose.

But that doesn't mean living out one's calling is easy.

Lately, the number of clergy who are burning out, stressed out, experiencing moral failures, etc., has continued to rise.

That's alarming.

I am one who had quadruple bypass surgery when I was only 39.

What is going on?

I recently read an article in the New York Times that said, "Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen...Many would change jobs if they could."

There is an actual web page called Pastor Burnout and here's some of what they had to say.
  • 25% of pastor's wives see their husband's work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastor's wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family's well-being and health.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
So if you're a pastor reading this, as one who is on the same journey with you, let us practice Sabbath as if our lives depended on it...because I think it does. 

Practice boundaries. 
  • It's not your church. It's God's church. You're just a servant worker there. There are things that are outside of your control. Leave them to God. 
  • Go home. Go home at a reasonable hour.
  • Guard your date nights with your spouse and your children.
  • Play hard. That's how God re-creates us. 
If you're a member of the church reading this, pray and encourage your pastors. Tell your pastors how you appreciate them. You never know how far a word of encouragement can go in the midst of stressful situations.

Please protect your pastor's boundaries. Pastors are human. We have families. We have personal needs just like everyone else. 


Katelyn said...

Yes, yes, yes and yes. At one point we had a youth pastor that was working really hard and all the time. He had a session member that became really concerned and asked him to clock his hours for a week. The married YP clocked over 60 hours in one week. No one realized it, (not even him) because he was showing up to every sports event, every concert, every recital. Not to mention his hours in the office, youth group, meetings, planning, studying and the list goes on and on and on. By the grace of God, he's a head pastor now in the PCUSA but I don't know that that would be the case if it wasn't pointed out to him and if his personal time wasn't protected by those that could protect it. I think it's also worth mentioning that clergy do not have a typical 9-5 job. Not very many 9-5ers are called in on a moments notice on their days off due to a life threatening crisis. THATS taxing. Not only helping people through life struggles and crisis, but also always having a day off that may not be a day off. And we haven't even gotten into the issue of putting hours of counseling in with people that in the end don't really want to help themselves.....And it's all done by our clergy not because they are paid to do it, but because they love. Keep on keepin' on!

James Kim said...

Thanks for the comment Katelyn! You rock!!!