Pastor burnout is a weapon the enemy uses with great efficiency. It is surprising in its simplicity but brutal in its impact. Burnout begins by encouraging us to do what we do best – minister to people. But as we serve, subtle conflict infiltrates our minds.
At first, confidence leads us to some great expectations. But those very expectations are the seeds of our own downfall. Why is it that we develop such an idealistic portrait of ministry and our own abilities?
Failure to meet these expectations leads to disappointment and confusion: "Am I doing this right?" "Why am I not seeing the results I should be seeing?" "Why did he get so angry about this?" "Am I really prepared to do this?" "I never knew ministry was like this." "I am going to work harder." "Maybe I need to look for a different church." "This isn’t what I thought being a pastor would be like."
It’s very logical, when you think about it. Peter states that Satan is prowling around looking for someone to have for lunch (1 Peter 5:8). As pastors, we know that many people in our congregations are vulnerable to these attacks. That’s why God put us in their lives. Hebrews 13:17 states that pastors keep watch over the souls of people in their congregations. And Peter teaches that we are to care for our congregation like a shepherd cares and protects his sheep (1 Peter 5:3).
So if you want to harm the flock, you first need to attack the shepherd.
I remember the exact point I hit bottom. I was staring into a bathroom mirror with a bottle of sleeping pills in my hand. A voice of reason began to speak… but a second voice interrupted, "Don't think, just swallow. Don’t think, just swallow."
And I did.
I assumed one bottle of prescription sleeping pills would do it. But just in case, I pulled out a second bottle and gulped those down as well.
The next few hours are a blur. But I do recall my wife sitting next to me in the hospital. And I can see her face as she said through tears, "We're going to get through this."
Pastor burnout doesn't always lead to suicide, of course. But whoever and wherever it strikes, clergy burnout leaves a path of discouragement, disillusionment, and pain.
I burned out twice in ministry. The first time, I didn't know what was happening. The second time I knew what was happening but seemed powerless to stop it. The first time, I denied that I had a problem. The second time I thought I could control it.
Both instances led to problems in my marriage, challenges in my church, and clinical depression. The major difference between the two experiences is that the second time I burned out, I left church ministry altogether.
I'm years removed from those experiences now, but I still struggle with the pain, shame, and grief of pastor burnout.
The pages on this site are really a therapeutic labor of love. I’ve been to the bottom and am making my way back to the surface. To be honest, I’m not really sure that life will ever be like it was before. And I’m not sure I would want it to be even if I had a choice. For as God promises, he took my misery and created something good out of it. I am broken, wounded, suffering in pain, but God is redeeming my hurts and using them for his glory.
That’s what this site is all about. I want to help pastors avoid if possible – or negotiate with hope the dark pathways of pastor burnout.
If you or someone you know wants to prevent burnout, or if you need help working through the darkness, this site is for you. This is a place where you can remain completely anonymous but still be part of a community.
Tell us your story, and hear the stories of others. Educate yourself against burnout and develop your own defenses. Find resources that will reduce your load while battling the enemy. And locate helpful partner ministries that can support you in your fight.
This is a community of people who understand. We’ve been there. And while we don’t have all the answers, we are finding that God really does restore and redeem our pain for something greater than we can now imagine.
Join us on our journey by selecting any of the pages listed in the left column.
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