Winning the battle against Pastoral 'Burnout'
Exhausted? Discouraged? Feeling like your ministry doesn't matter? I understand you. I know what it is to spend yourself in service only to feel 'it is all for naught.' For some, these feelings pass rather quickly - a card in the mail, an invite to lunch or a golf outing is all it takes to ward off the impending 'doom' the minister often feels. For others, despair is like an old friend that shows up every Monday with questions that seem more like accusations- "How'd it go yesterday? Too bad no one got saved yesterday. Wonder why so many missed? Maybe your best days are behind you?"
What should we do to stave off ministry doldrums?
- Re-Center yourself - Are you spending time in God's Word like you ought (and I'm not referring to sermon prep)? Have you opened your heart to the Lord and quieted yourself in Him? 1 Samuel 30 shows the importance of the man of God 'encouraging himself in the Lord.' God will probe you, like He did in 1 Kings 19, when He asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" We who so often speak of 'the help of God's Word' ought to take our own advice and get alone with God.
- Take some time off - It will likely take more than a week. It may take a month. If you are not in the habit of doing things for yourself - maybe it's time you did. Do something that refreshes you. Staring at the four walls of your office will suffocate you. Read a book. Get some rest. Nourish yourself. You will be a better servant if you take care of yourself.
- Tie up any loose ends that may be causing greater angst - A real stresser for me is feeling the weight of so many unfinished tasks. Before I know it, I have so many things I 'should do' and no energy or desire to do them. If there are some visits you need to make, conversations to have, goals to establish, plans, etc. - get on it. Focus on one thing before you go to the next. Clear your desk.
- Share your heart with a friend - Allow someone to sit on the ash-heap with you. Share your concerns. Invite their counsel and accountability. "Two are better than one," said Solomon, "For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" Things are not often as bad as they seem. Someone who isn't in the 'fray' can offer the objectivity you need.
Can I pray for you? "Dear Lord, I thank you for my brother or sister... a person whose significance is not tied to their performance (successes or failures). I thank you for loving them, knowing them, and reaching out your encouragement to them. Clear their minds, I pray. Help them sift through the things that need to be done - and provide clarity about what is necessary. Fill them with joy and peace. Bring your strength to bear on their weakness. And may YOU get glory in and through their life. In Jesus name... amen"