I have felt the heat of burnout in my own experience (31 years of pastoral ministry in three churches).
“And if you don’t like it, there’s the door!”
Those words spoken from the pulpit out of the mouth of a ministry colleague introduced me to pastoral burnout. After delivering that doozy of a sermon, he disappeared behind the platform and broke down sobbing.
A month away from ministry and a year rebuilding spiritual, emotional, and physical strength led to decades of effective ministry.
But it was almost over before it began. My friend faced burnout. Most of us will too.
I have felt the heat of burnout in my own experience (31 years of pastoral ministry in three churches). Telltale signs for me include:
- Avoiding people (I am an enthusiastic extrovert). When I have over committed or feel the tug of fatigue, this is a sure indicator of trouble. I look at my calendar and groan. I think of excuses for canceling meetings (or even better, not setting them up in the first place). Isolation can kill.
- Procrastinating. In my church context I preach series of messages throughout the year. Usually, I stay ahead of the curve by scheduling study on Thursday mornings and all day Friday. But when I am fatigued, I find myself starting late and pushing the deadlines. That results in poorly prepared sermons, more stress, and guilt. Delay steals fruitfulness.
- Impatience. The little delays and irritations of life (sanctifying experiences usually) result in anger rather than humor. A volunteer blows an assignment, a staff member questions a decision, a family member disappoints and I am ready to blow. Anger does not produce righteousness.
- Temptation. Satan knows me well (I have given him plenty of ammunition over the years) and he seems to have an uncanny knack for raising temptation whenever I struggle with bitterness or resentment. Private failure destroys effective ministry.