The Covid pandemic caused an influx of stress for pastors across the country. So much so, in fact, that 38% have even considered leaving ministry altogether. What is pastor burnout, and why has it become so common? The answers to those questions are a complex combination of emotional and spiritual turbulence that affect the work of the ministry and the health of the pastor.
Reinvigorated culture wars, abnormally long hours, and loneliness are key factors cited to bring about pastoral burnout. Despite these observations, pastoral burnout runs a bit deeper. Pastors often find a gap between their personal lives and their ministry lives and the expectations they have for them. The widening gap between expectations and reality can lead to disillusionment, depression, confusion, and, ultimately, burnout.
Pastors aren’t the only profession suffering from this life-altering canyon of expectation/reality. Marketing professionals, business owners, and even teachers can fall victim to the false realities we place upon ourselves. Pastors are, however, more inclined to suffer from burnout due to the extreme workload and responsibilities placed upon them by their congregation and community. It isn’t an unusual phenomenon to feel overwhelmed in ministry.
Pastors often find themselves in constant dealings with those who struggle to cope with their own reality. It’s easy for pastors and faith leaders to become distracted from themselves when they’re counseling others all the time. Such external pressures like a lack of control, workload, compassionate community, lack of fairness, and lack of reward can lead to burnout. Burnout itself is labeled an official medical diagnosis by the World Health Organization, and the duties of the ministry amplified after Covid haven’t lessened since the end of the pandemic.
As external factors of ministry play a role in pastoral burnout, perhaps an even more critical factor would be the internal factors that pastors face. These would include the stresses and anxieties pastors place upon themselves. Often, these pressures are not given a safe space to be voiced, and pastors choose to suffer alone due to the stigma against mental health help often encountered in the faith.
If left unchecked, pastor burnout can lead to faith leaders acting out sinfully and harming themselves, their families, or their church in any number of different ways. How can we be aware of pastor burnout and combat it? Look for these signs….
- Reduced empathy
- Reduced sense of gratification, reward, or pleasure
- Reduced productivity/procrastination
- Relationship conflict, withdrawal, or reduced intimacy
- Headaches, stomach upset, or blood pressure
- Mental health problems (anxiety, depression)
Here at NuWell Christian Counseling, we can help pastors navigate the turbulent sea of burnout. Our professional counselors provide anonymous and confidential mental health services to pastors that are grounded in the Bible and faithful and true. Pastors don’t have to be alone in their personal battles any longer.