Physical Health and Pastor Burnout

by Jennavere
(Boston, MA)

I am a first year MDiv student who is seeking to enter pastoral ministry upon graduation. For one of my classes, we have to write about how a problem of modernity has affected practicing clergy today. The problem I have chosen to consider is how the mind/body/soul disconnect of modernity is affecting the physical and emotional health of pastors. My question is this: Does anyone see a connection between poor physical health practices and pastor burnout? What are these connections? What are your thoughts on the source of this phenomenon and how it might be remedied?

Thank you all so much, in advance, for taking the time to help me with my term paper!

Comments for Physical Health and Pastor Burnout

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No health insurance adds to the problem.
by: Doreen

I would also just like to add that in many of the situations and small independant churches that I know, the Pastor is without health insurance, so a small problem will turn into a large, or even life threatening one before the Pastor will go to the doctor (which by that time, will end up being the emergency room). Then you get a diagnosis and a prescription you can't afford to fill...and the cycle and the stress continues...

M-Div Student: Term Paper
by: Liz Levesque

Dear M-Div Student:

Here is the last of three posts:

How about the rampant cultural decay in morals which causes people to have more problems they take to the pastor? Alcohol, drugs, unwed mothers and fathers, adultery, homosexuality, kids in trouble, criminal behavior. The list goes on and on for what pastors have to deal with. How about the lack of maturity among Christians which causes them to be thin skinned and offended at every turn unable to admit to their own sins and unable to admit they even have a problem? How about an entire congregation that for the most part blames others for their personal problems instead of taking responsibility? Do you know the counseling load of a pastor? That alone is a full time job. How about all the squabbling that goes on in these meetings over money, expenses, tithing, fundraising and the like? Have you ever sat in on even one of these meetings? These are straight up fight fests with board members and "long standing " congregants who have been there for years beating up the pastor and his wife and anyone else for sickening power and control in these meetings. Do you have any idea how damaging church politics is? It makes the current election between Democrats and Republicans look like a marshmallow pillow fight. These "discussions" in these meetings are brutal and people walk away completely injured. Do you have any idea how completely unacceptable this whole unhealthy, bullying wretched process is? It's wicked! It's straight up evil! Consider my 25 years of pastoring in 4 different denominations. I was paid nothing. My husband made diddly squat and we had 3 kids to provide for. So, he was expected to not only run a whole service of people but to be available 24-7 for any crisis. Much like a doctor is on call except doctors make way more money. So I had to conclude after 25 years, moving from one pastorate to another, hoping the next one would get better, which it didn't, that pastoring is the most unhealthy job in the world. You burn out because you are overworked and underpaid and completely bullied. You have people who call you at the drop of a hat with problems they can resolve themselves. People in congregations are needy, demanding, abusive and sometimes outright hateful. There is a complete lack of moral fiber out there coupled with a 1940s pay scale. It's a disaster. What can I say? I wish you luck. You are going to need it big time to withstand pastoring in this day and age and in this church mentality climate. Liz Levesque+

M-Div Student Term Paper
by: Liz Levesque

Dear M-Div Student:

I am posting three times to get all the needed information to you. You may also personally email me for an interview: Here is more:

The pastor is expected to be the perfect "messiah figure", have all the answers, take every phone call, solve every problem, well into the night and weekend. The married pastoral couple have no personal "us" time, they are broke financially, (we ate very poorly), there is no time for exercise, no money for a vacation, no money for anything (I bought my kids clothes at Walmart or the thrift store and their shoes at Payless) and while everyone else is making money you are expected to not care about that because of course, "you are so spiritual." You end up resentful, your kids end up resentful, Mommy and Daddy are never home, your kids rebel. Members of the congregation wonder why you don't have perfect kids or a perfect family all the while they suck your soul, drain your mind and energy, and wonder, "why does your wife stop coming? We miss her." To which your husband has to answer, "She had to get a job." To which they answer, "WEll these modern women just like to work." To which you think to yourself, "If you paid my husband more money you cheap *** people I wouldn't have to work and if you would stop hiring pastors and their wives at a two for one sale maybe we could have some dignity here!" To which you cannot explain because you are a good Christian woman and these people are often stuck in the 1940s when gas was 23 cents a gallon and milk was 10 cents a quart. They could not conceive of today's prices and when you want to do anything "it is too expensive." I cannot tell you what a time warp congregations are in. What a generational time warp they are in. The expectations for what a pastor "should" do and what he "can" do realistically with a wife and kids are galaxies apart. Liz+

Term Paper: Problem of Modernity
by: Liz Levesque

Dear M-Div Student:

I don't know if the problem with pastoring is modernity. I think it has more to do with lack of spiritual maturity on the part of congregations who refuse to be adults and solve their own problems of their own making and pressing in on the pastor to do their work. Do you know how many people have ruined their lives by their own sin and bad choices and want the pastor and his wife to "fix it?" It's astronomical the lack of personal integrity and personal responsibility people attending churches display. Let's get to the issue of denominational administrators and denominational boards of directors. These "guys" and they are mostly men are expected to run their churches on a shoestring so they hire a pastor and his wife at the price of a janitor. The wife gets no salary so it is basically a "2 for 1 sale". She is expected to "volunteer" for children's ministry or women's ministry or bible study or meetings and/or anything else the board wants. She is often taking care of dependent children at home and with all this "volunteer" work she is wiped out. She often goes to get another job because the salary is so meager and then if she tells anyone she cannot do this "volunteer" work they are mad. Yet, they start her husband on a salary fit for a pauper in this day and age when he has a wife and kids to support and seminary tuition to pay back. Financially it's impossible to pastor with any kind of financial health. The job description is insane for the salary allowed and also insane considering this is just one man. The pastor is expected to write a perfect sermon, theologically and otherwise, and if he doesn't someone after church will definitely "rip him a new one" about it. Which of course is completely draining. There are plenty of people in the congregation who will "disagree" on this point or that point in the sermon and plenty who will be outright nasty about the sermon challenging every jot and tittle, every comma, every theological point. It's a total burnout. More comments later. Liz+

A Definite Link
by: Dan Sherman -

I would say that there is a definite link between physical health and burnout. A proper diet gives a person physical energy which carries over to emotional and mental energy. Exercise releases endorphins into the body giving an overall sense of feeling good. A physically fit person will find it much easier to battle burnout and depression.

Use the "contact me" form on this site and I can send you some more information about the subject.

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