Hi. My name is Ryan. I am a pastor. According to statistics I am a sad breed. Pastors are the most depressed, lonely, burnt out, over worked, underpaid, fat, and unhealthy people on the planet. Our families are a mess. Our finances are a mess. It is hard to have friends. Our work is unseen and is seen as unnecessary to some. Most pastors will only last 5 years in the ministry before getting another job.
Does it have to be this way?
As I sit here and write down a “To-Do-List” for the next couple of months I get overwhelmed at best. I see a never-ending list of people to meet, prayers to be made, and the darkness of the human heart (mine included). My job is a never-ending endeavor. Only God can make sense of it all. And yet, I get up everyday, dust myself off, look to Jesus in prayer, and go at it again.
Why? Is something wrong with me? What would cause a person to want to work in such an environment?
Most jobs have a built in mechanism that I long for – visible results. This is why I love mowing the lawn (most days). It is the only thing in my life where I see immediate results. When you are working in the spiritual realm of ministry the results may never be seen this side of heaven. People are people. Sin is real. Jesus is better and has overcome. But, we still plod along knowing that the results are not left up to us. The fruit, the healing, the life is not mine to wield. God gives the growth. God gives the life. God gives the salvation.
Most of my worry, anxiety, stress, and pain come when I forget that God is sovereign, gracious, and good. Pastors that burn out (or any person for that matter), ship wreck their faith, and destroy their marriages, somewhere along the line forgot who is ultimately in control. The holy-Trinity of “me, myself, and I” was never meant to sit on the throne of the universe.
Pastors are simply to be “stewards of the faith” as Paul tells us. A steward is a manager, an overseer, someone who takes what is not his or hers in the first place and uses it for God’s glory. Trying not to get in the way of God’s purposes and trying not to make a mess of everything.
Scott Thomas in his book Gospel Coach tells us that pastors and leaders who crash is because they have a performance idol. In other words, pastors and leaders can’t lead from a place that tells them their ultimate value, worth, significance is based on what they accomplish or do not accomplish. I wish this only applied to pastors but every vocation will be tempted to find significance in their performance. Performance is seductive because it often is immediate, seen, and involves the praise of others.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has performed on our behalf and does not need our help. Our identity and significance is not rooted in what we do for God- but rather who we are in Christ. We are sons and daughters of the King. We are adopted into a new family. We are forgiven. We have hope. We have life. All of this is a gift from God himself.
The more we understand our true identity in Christ we can now boldly serve him through our work. We can take criticism because Jesus was criticized on our behalf. We can work hard because we don’t need to earn God’s approval because it was given to us in Christ. We can love people in our churches, our neighborhoods, and our families because we know that even if they don’t respond to us we are fully loved by God. We can look at all the pain, sin, and brokenness of the world and not lose hope. When can get up and fight another day.
Because we know how the story ends. It is not our story. We are extras in the story. Our role is a flash for 4 seconds and its gone. Jesus wins. All the wrongs will be made right. And it has nothing to do with how well you perform today. Rest in Jesus. Rest in his care. Rest in his love. Then go and serve boldly for the honor of Jesus- knowing he has performed for us. Whatever your vocation might be know that the “To-Do-List” is long and will never be done. But rather look to the one who said: “It is finished”.
Are you resting in Jesus? Why is this hard to actually live out day to day?
You mow the lawn. I vacuum. I'll try to remember your words the next time I start vacuuming because of my job and not because the floor needs it. ~Stanley
Got any statistics on the first paragraph? Not that I'm doubting, I just want to feel validated. :) pvk
just type in pastor burn out statistics and you get all kinds...
but here's one site...
I'm a retired pastor but new to this group. I have read some statistics on the first paragraph above in "Leadership Journal" and in other places. One thing that sticks in my mind is in the book, "Clergy Killers," by G. Lloyd Rediger -- and that is that over 1200 ministers are forced out of the ministry every month, and that there are many more who, while staying in the pulpit, feel like Ryan -- burned out, depressed, etc. While I am retired, I also am trained as a Specialized Transition (Interim) Minister. During my training it has been confirmed to me that Rediger's statistics are true. And I have also learned that there are remedies such as honest prayer, insightful leadership, and effective Transitional Ministry.
Here is a story for Ryan. There once was a man who was called to the foot of God's throne, and once he arrived there, he was bewildered by what God might ask of him. God told him to look out into the distance, and asked the man if he could see the large rock there. To which the man replied, "Why -- yes, I can."
God then said to the man, "Pick up this hammer." And the man did, asking, "What do you want me to do with the hammer?" It was a large hammer -- like a sledge hammer.
"I want you to take the hammer and go hit that rock" God told him.
Well, the man did as he was told, and after a considerable walk, carrying the heavy hammer, he arrived at the rock, and began swinging the hammer against the rock with all his might. This went on for some time, without any visibie effect on the rock.
After wearing out 2 such hammers while striking the rock, the man returned to God to report his lack of progress. "I have literally worn out two hammers like the one you gave to me while trying to smash that rock," the man told God. "My hands once were sore and raw, but now are so caloused that I no longer feel the pain of swinging the hammer. But one thing bothers me. After all this time, I have not been able to even knock one little chip off that rock. I feel like a failure."
Then God said, "I did not tell you to break the rock. I only told you to take the hammer and hit it! I did not ask you to be successful; I asked you to be faithful."
That story has served me well in my short tenure as a minister. Maybe it will be helpful to someone else, too.
Grace to you and peace,
Discipline is out in:
Churches, use of Technology, Relationships, Spending, Government.
The only places were some discipline is still in effect are airplane and train schedules (if the folks are not on strike).
You need some personal discipline. I was transferred to a place where I had to take the train to work and home. Miss the 7:05 am and you lost half a day. Miss the 5:19 pm and you'd be home at 8:30. Follow this schedule this in your pastoral work.
Evenings I used to study at nite school 2 nites a week and home work one night, Never did anything for work or study on Fri, Sat and Sun nights.
Meetings can not start before 7:30 pm or go beyond 10:00 pm and I walk out if they do (that means the closing prayer at church meetings starts at 9:45 to everyone a chance to participate). Meetings have an agenda and those times are on there.
I was told sermons take up to 15 hours to prepare. That is two full days or 4 half days. You are unavailable PERIOD! during this time. Post your schedule in the bulletin for 3 weeks and then once a year as reminder. During sermon prep turn your cell phone off and put land line on call forward.
(Many churches are down to 60 services a year counting special holidays + funerals. That is down from 112 + funerals 15 years ago)
Read the book of Nehemia. He was one of the best planners in scripture.
On the money side get a trusted adviser to sit with you once a quarter for an hour and half till you get it.
Blessings brother, we need folks like you for more than 5 years!!
Here are some stats from Barna-
Then I use my own personal research in my city of the many pastors I run into that are struggling wtih many issues. We even have a ministry in our city that is called PastorServ that ministers to pastors for this reason.
I really needed this letter!
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