Should I Leave My Church?


I am discouraged, hurting, burned out, tired out, and stressed out. I am what this site talks about - pastor burnout. But even more than that, I am tempted to sin in ways I never thought I was vulnerable. I am afraid that I am going to fail my church, my wife, my children, and my God.

Is there anyone else out there struggling with similar things? Can you offer some advice or at least let me know that I'm not alone?

Comments for Should I Leave My Church?

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An Answer From Someone Without Answers
by: LifeofRiley

A huge misconception within the Church is that there’s a right answer for everybody, every time. Life is complicated and it’s messy and solutions don’t arrive wrapped in bows. That makes a pastor’s job/life tricky because we preach absolutes and people turn to their ministers for definitive answers. Should you quit? Man, I dunno. Who you are right now is the culmination of your personal experiences, your body’s chemistry and the dynamics of your beliefs. How you experience life is unique and highly personalized. Only you can gauge the intensity of the emotions and degree of temptation you face.

Because of the nature of our jobs, normal, freaky thoughts seem worse (I’ll spare you mine, but they’re gross). Why? You’re a dude. Dudes have dirty thoughts – it’s kind of our thing. But we have an insane amount of pressure to be pure in thought all the time. That makes the titillating particularly alluring. Let’s say I tell you "Don’t think about elephants." What are you thinking about right now? Elephants.
You have to find a discrete person whom you can share your struggles with.

You don’t need to make a public confessional every time you see an attractive lady and think, "Hey…" But you need to articulate them to someone supportive, mature, understanding and DISCRETE before thoughts linger and become actions. And I’m not talking about your wife here. Trust me. We think we’re supposed to share everything with our wives, confess our sins one to another, yadda, yadda. But depending on the nature of your struggles it can knee-cap your relationship if you’re too open about it. If you think about having sex with a woman in your church she may not understand. She may feel hurt, inadequate and resentful despite how reassuring she might seem. She’s only human, too.

Prayer is the best thing you can do, though it also may seem like the most futile. I wish God gave us real-time, tangible answers. Maybe you’re one of those pastors who thinks God talks to him directly. For most of us that’s not the case. It’s frustrating and confusing. We KNOW God’s not that way, but it can FEEL that way – and for humans our feelings shape our reality.

Every legit prophet and preacher stood where you do now. Sin, temptations, they never go away – we just grow wiser in dealing with them as we learn who we are as individuals. Love yourself. Make friends outside your church and be just a guy. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for an anti-hypertensive or even an antidepressant – it's not "cheating" and it's no one’s business but your own. And that's okay.

We get burned out. But you're not alone, and on this matter cognition must supersede feelings. I'll pray for you, but find a genuine confidant who will not make you feel inadequate (ministers can be bad about that sometimes).

Tempted to Sin
by: Anonymous

Dear Brother,

i can only assume that 'tempted to sin' means you are thinking of having a sexual affair. Don't do this. think of your wife. your children. Get out of this church. it is death. your symptoms are those of someone who is mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually dying. go and get some health. I have been in churches which had the label "Christian" but were just mortuaries in disguise. Go find life and love again with the wife of your youth and your children and family. There is really no shame in leaving a place which has caused so much death and destruction to you. This is obviously not a place of light,health, love and peace so why would you stay in such a place, logically speaking? run. run away now. save yourself and your marriage. Elizabeth+

Reach out!
by: D.W.O.

My friend, as has already been said, find someone you can talk to -- at the deepest levels. Another pastor, someone here, a pastor's coach or counselor. I left the pastorate in March pushing the edge of burnout, knowing, as a friend told me, that God's desire for me (not suggesting it's His for you!) was to exit in some health, with a positive outlook, ready for the next season of life, not -- as might have happened -- sick, sinful, broken mentally, angry and despairing. I took his advice and immediately sought new healthy relationships with some men who could minister to me and allow me to minister alongside them, without major responsibility. Now working at becoming a Life Coach and I see the Son shining again!

"escapist" behaviors common to burnout
by: Anonymous

The temptations you are facing are what can be called escapist behaviors that are common to burnout. It is like trying to find a "pleasure hit" that will take away the pain of burnout. But we both know that kind of approach only gives momentary relief and a whole lot of grief follows. If you begin to address the underlying cause - things will improve but it takes time. Seek medical advice, a good counselor, and like Elijah - sleep, eat a healthy diet and allow others to minister to you.

First Manage Yourself
by: Karl Galik

At this point, thank God there are no easy solutions or exit points. At this point thank God you for the new slightly angled course you're about to start. A 1% shift in direction now puts you in a whole new place 3 months, 6 months, 1 year from now.
1.) Rest. Sorry, I wish there was something more profound to begin with, but there isn't. If there's no renewal, no place for replenishment, no place for those rhythms and cycles, there's no place to turn around...
2.) Recognize care for self is directly linked to care for your mission. It's not a interruption in your mission, it is your mission. "...and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself..." -- Jesus, Matthew 22.39 (7x from Leviticus to James)
3.) Find intimacy. Physical, emotional intimacy with your spouse; trusted kinship with friends. Isolation is the number one enemy. Ask the small wildebeest calf separated from the heard.
4.) Learn to see the whole picture, think systemically. Creation has been designed to respond to your personal changes. Over-functioning and it's first cousin, over-responsibility only seem rewarding. They, like tobacco supply only a momentary hit before they begin to take your breath away.

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