Burn Out Pastors: The Problem, The Cause and the Solution


a-case-of-burnout

The Main Responsibility of a Pastor

            Hebrews 13:17 tells us “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (KJV) If the soul is the seat of our emotions, if our minds are housed in our souls and if our will also springs-out of our souls, we can say that the pastor’s hands are very, very full. The pastor deals with the emotions of his people so they can live a life filled with joy, peace and purpose. He teaches them how to think like Christ and, how to surrender their wills to God. However, something is terribly wrong when the pastor himself is walking around with a hurting soul.

The Problem

            On August of 2010 the New York Times conducted a study and found that 33% of pastors felt burn out within the first five years of ministry. 57 % of pastor said that they would leave ministry if they could. 80% of pastors said that they have insufficient time with their spouses. 80% stated that pastoral ministry has affected their family negatively. 1,500 pastors leave ministry every month due to burn out. (Last accessed 9/13/2017): http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html

What is the Cause of the Problem?

            There are many reasons why pastors get burn out such as lack of balance between family and ministry (McMinn: 2015, p. 564); Bolsinger calls this, “…unhealthy professional boundaries between pastors and their congregation.” (Bolsinger, 2015) Bolsinger goes as far as stating that most pastors LOVE a good pastoral care crisis; that the idea of the need to be needed feeds many their ego (Bolsinger, 2015). Also, another cause for pastor’s burn out is the unhealthy expectations placed on them by their own congregations (Bolsinger, 2015). Bolsinger conclude his article by stating that the main reason for pastor’s burning out is “…because we have lost our wholeheartedness about pastoral ministry.” (Last accessed 9/13/2017): http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/247954-true-cause-pastoral-burnout.html.

            As powerful and logical as these reasons may sound, the root cause for pastor burning out is the little and, in some cases, lack of prayer life and lack of time in the study and meditation of God’s Word. McMinn identifies that spiritual dryness and no time to study or be alone is one of the stressors that clergy is facing. (McMinn, 2015, p. 564). Prayer is the foundation of not only ministry, but the Christian life. There are countless Old and New Testament verses to support the fact that God encourages us to pray; it is part of having a relationship with Him. How can we say that we have a relationship with God if we do not pray? Jesus say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV) There is absolutely no rest for our souls without nurturing our relationship with God. Jesus also establishes that remaining in his Word is a requirement and evidence that we are his disciples (John 8:31).

            As I read and research for this forum it gives me the impression that prayer is seen “just” as one more tool amongst many, that is able to resolve the issue of pastors burning out. “The amount of time spend in prayer and personal devotions raises questions about the vitality of many pastors’ spiritual life.” (Stetzer, 2009) He continues by stating that 52% of pastor reported that they spend one to six hours in prayer a week. 5% are reporting that they do not spend any time in prayer, while 14% admit to spending less than an hour a week in prayer (Last accessed 9/12/2017): http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2009/december/how-protestant-pastors-spend-their-time.html

            Prayer is the key, the foundation and the tool that access the power of God for ministry. Without prayer, what are we really doing? On the other hand, neglecting our families for the sake of ministry placed us in a category of worse than non-saved people according First Timothy 5:8. Lastly, Pretending to be what are not or pretending that we can accomplish what we are unable to do without God is also a monumental violation of Scripture. It is amazing to me to see the transparency of Paul in Romans chapter 7 where he admits doing the evil that he did not want to do; he openly described the struggle between the Spirit in him and his own flesh to the point of calling himself a wretched man. The pretending and allowing people to place us in a pedestal brings a lot of stress in the long run; why? Because it is not real, is indeed a lie.

Solutions

            In Luke 21 Jesus describes the culture of the last days, the terribly signs in nature that will take place and the persecution that God’s people will suffer. It is not a pretty picture. We know that even as Jesus knew that the disciples would not be around during those days he was describing; the disciples were going to be victims of great persecution themselves. In Luke 21:19 Jesus expressed the following, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (KJV). We will use this verse as the focal point to answer the following five questions.

What does it mean to “Possess My Soul through Self-Care and Mentorship?

            By these words Jesus is giving them the ability to bounce back or resilience. At the same time our resiliency is of great testimony for he world (Last Accessed 9/14/2017) https://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-18548914-dt-content-rid-168760391_1/courses/PACO500_B07_201740/Presentations/Module%203/Possessing%20My%20Soul.html

            To possess our souls is to keep our souls under control and from coming crumbling down when facing life troubles. Therefor we see great wisdom here; in order for us to prepare for the tough times we must remain in God’s Word. The same can be said about prayer when Jesus states, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NKJV) To persevere until the end is also a sign of our commitment to Christ (Matthew 10:22).

What is the overarching purpose of “Possessing My Soul?”

            All points to Christ, by possessing or having my soul under control I can fulfill my hallmark statement, my committed to be a disciple of Christ by honoring his Word above my opinions (John 8:31), by becoming an imitator of his heart and behaviors (Ephesians 5:1), by looking up to Jesus in every aspect of my life (Hebrews 12:2) and by using all of my gifts for his glory and for the service of people (1 Peter 4:10-11).

What are the current self-care/resiliency themes being discussed in the readings and literature?

            Through all the reading I completed for this paper there is support for prayer and the study of God’s Word as key and essential factor in achieving resiliency. Family must be second only after God. Also other resources were provided such as: http://www.healingchoice.org a Christian umbrella organization for several types of therapeutic care. http://www.sheperd-care.org a nonprofit organization that focus on the health of the minister’s soul and, http://www.ministrymentors.org.

How does one identify, solicit, and engage mentorship? What self-care and mentorship strategy best fits your current soul-care context?

            I gave my life to Christ when I was 29 years old; I am now 49; I have learned that as long as I do not neglect my relationship with God, the study and meditation of His Word and, as long as I keep my wife and family first after God, all is well with my soul. The times that I placed entertainment, bad relationships and even ministry before God and family things did not go well for me. Everything starts with my solitude with God that I treasure so much. That solitude makes me a better husband, a better father, a better son and a better friend. The next level is the special place that my pastor has in my life; he is far away in Mexico, but through technology we are able to stay in contact. The next level is to be in close friendship with strong Christian men. Warren proposed that every pastor need four types of people in his life: 1) Models: people to look up to. These people, according to Warren can also include death heroes of the faith. 2) Co-workers; these are people that are there to help you in the work if the ministry. 3) Good old friends; people you can trust; Warren recommends other pastors. (4) Mentors; these are people who are further alone in ministry and are able to teach you a thing or two. (Last accessed 9/13/2017) http://pastors.com/4-types-of-people-every-pastor-needs-in-his-life Out of these healthy relationships I am able to minster freely, with great joy and resilience.

 

Reference

Bolsinger, T. The true cause of pastoral burnout (2015). Retrieved from http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/247954-true-cause-pastoral-burnout.html

McMinn, M.R., Lish, A.R., Trice, P.D., Root, A.M., Gilbert, N. & Yap, A. Care for pastors: Learning from clergy and their spouses. Pastoral Psychology, (July 2005).

Pastor Burnout Statistics. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html.

Possessing my Soul Through Self-Care and Mentoring. Retrieved from https://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-18548914-dt-content-rid-168760391_1/courses/PACO500_B07_201740/Presentations/Module%203/Possessing%20My%20Soul.html.

Stezer, Ed. (2009). How Protestant Pastors Spend Their Time. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2009/december/how-protestant-pastors-spend-their-time.html

 

 

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