Step down or burn out
After reading the testimonies here I realize there are three common threads to pastor burnout.1)Non-support by the congregation (financial) 2) Non-support by the congregation (ministry of helps) and 3)Conflict within the congregation.
My husband and I have been in ministry over twenty years. The last ten has been in a small, rural church that has a hard time overcoming the past sins, conflicts and debts of a previous pastor. We served selflessly, my husband often working extra jobs, just to make ends meet and to help the church financially, while I cared for our young children and worked at everything else in the church he could not do. We had a very small circle of real workers willing to help, very strained finances (not everyone who could give, did), and a man we trusted who could not receive correction about a serious matter, and decided to destroy us and our church with his mouth afterward. He very nearly succeeded. After struggling for the last three years just to keep from losing our home and to put food on the table, my husband found a full-time job in the secular world that more than meets our needs. We have prayed for six months for the direction God has for us because; 1) the finances have continued to dry up 2) the congregation has become increasingly apathetic 3) we are struggling with not even wanting to go ourselves.
A couple of months ago we realized we were feeling released from this pastorate. As we sought God's direction we have decided to resign from the church and "rest" awhile, focusing our time on growing as a couple and as a family. For years we have worked, while our people couldn't give in the summer because they were going on vacation (and we had no vacation!), they couldn't give in the winter because they had to buy for the holidays(and our own holidays were skimpy!),etc. etc.
This year we are going on a vacation. We are taking our kids places they have never gotten to go. We are going to find a church that we can sit in and be refreshed in and grow in. We are going to leave the service Sunday morning and not worry about if the church has enough money to pay it's bills or if we will be able to feed our children. We are not going to worry about offending brother so-and-so, or not calling sister so-and-so. We are going to take our children out to lunch. We are going to spend the afternoon laughing with them. We are going to let God restore to us what the years of ministry have tried to destroy. We are stepping down BEFORE we burn out, so that someday, when we are restored and refreshed, we can again make a difference in the lives of others for Christ. For the next season, the people we are trying to influence for HIM, will be our precious children.
Ironically, when my husband announced we were leaving, all the apathetic ones cried. Real tears. And the small core of faithful workers weren't even surprised. It was just confirmation of what they already knew from their times in prayer.They were relieved for us.