Protecting Pastors from Burning Out

Do you know of any pastors lately who had an affair? How about any pastors caught with drugs? What about preachers who fleeced their congregation’s pocketbook?

Generally, when we hear of these and other moral failings we are quick to label these men and women as wolfs in sheep’s clothing, hypocrites, anti-Christs, etc… However, I would like us to reconsider what is happening in these people’s lives. What I fear is sadly happening is pastors took on too large of a leadership role for too long and have become burnt out. Their deacons and elders hadn’t picked up the slack to help ease their pastors life. This often happens in smaller churches where the status quo is that the pastor serves as preacher, teacher, secretary, financier, bus driver, and any other job the church feels he needs to fill in order to “earn his keep”. The majority of the congregation is too caught up in their own issues to even consider that the pastor is just a person like them who lets a curse word slip when they see the flashing blues or occasionally ignores a phone call when so and so calls for “more spiritual guidance” or to see if the church can pick up their gas bill. Again.

Thus, eventually after months, years, or even decades of carefully balancing all of the church roles he/she has been given plus trying to be the best spouse/ parent they can; they burn out. They want nothing more to do with ministry. No more sermon prep. No more late night calls. No more hospital visits. No more church. Instead of being offered the chance to take some time off and allow their mind to rewind they attempt to perform their calling with no passion or desire. Their calling becomes their cancer.

Instead of asking for help or for time off they look for a way out. Even though help or time away would refresh their souls getting totally away from all things church seems like the only way to save their sanity. Their way out sometimes becomes a moral failure. He/she thinks, “If I do …. (sleep with my secretary, get caught with drugs, steal money from the church building fund, etc…) then the church will have no choice but to fire me.” Thus, pastor so and so does what ever moral failure and is asked to leave the church. This isn’t just limited to pastors but to their wives, deacons and elders as well. Why so extreme some wonder; when you feel like you have no where left to turn sometimes jumping off the cliff is your only option.

Think of how many pastors would be still serving in whatever capacity within the church if they would have had a safety net built around them to help prevent them from burning out. What steps is your church doing to help your pastor from becoming another statistic?

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