Trapped in Burnout

We have been married and in various ministries for over 20 years now and have several children. We have been at the same small church around 16 years or so. Things are getting so stale. The church does not grow. The budget is always tight. They take the best care of us that they can, but my husband is almost 50 and we have zero retirement and we live in an aging parsonage. My husband works a small second job, and I work as well (but it is not very good pay). The house always stays messy because neither of us feel like cleaning up after the kids constantly when we are done with a work day. He is also working on his Master’s Degree, which is slow going with everything else on his plate.

Workers are sparse at the church, so we try to keep up with certain things there, but other things fall through the cracks, like regular church cleanings and etc. My husband has tried to look for other positions, but nothing ever opens up. I would love if he would just get out of the ministry, but his other career training was over 20 years ago and it would be very difficult for him to be re-hired in his field. Plus, we do not own a home and cannot afford to move. So we are basically stuck here because we get paid enough to make it, but not enough to find a better situation somewhere. My kids are struggling, and my oldest has a very good chance of making some poor decisions within the next couple of years, which would disqualify us anyhow and force us out, something we cannot afford to do. We are desperately trying to pay off a few small debts and husband trying to finish his classes so that we are a little less trapped. Our youngest is also considered “special needs” and requires extra medical attention and educational attention, so that is another reason we are locked in here.

I feel like our relationship is really hurting. I feel that we are constantly aggravated with each other. However, I think that the ministry has changed me, and it has changed him, and I do not think we really like the new “each other”. However if I talk to him about it, he either says that he is fine and nothing is wrong, or he feels like I am complaining or regretting my life choices, which offends him.

I honestly don’t want to be here anymore. I really wish we could just be a normal family who can go to church together and blend in, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about living under a bridge in a box just because one of my kids decided to make poor life choices (probably indirectly caused by discouraging ministry experiences). I wish my husband could find a good job in his field and that I could work part time and keep a house...OUR house, not an old parsonage that needs work. I wish I could choose a church where I could actually find friends...I haven’t had a close friend for over 16 years now. I feel like this place has broken my spirit, and I feel dull, and uninterested in ministry or the people involved in it. I don’t want to give up on God, but I feel like church is such a sham...everybody just goes because it’s what they’re supposed to do, and then you don’t hear from them again until the next Sunday, when we all show up and dress up and smile because we’re supposed to. It’s like a club or something. I no longer see any point to it, honestly.

Sometimes I think that I don’t know how I can keep living like this. But then I’m afraid God will make sure I get cancer or die in a car accident for my negative attitude and ungratefulness. I just wish our family could have fun together and just enjoy life together instead of always worry about money and church and things. I know life could be so much worse, but right now I just wish I could be somewhere else, living where I want to live and attending a church I feel comfortable attending, and living the regular middle class life instead of wondering how we are going to retire someday.

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A View from the Outside
by: Anonymous

I am so sorry that you feel trapped in your life! I an an ex pastor who suffered burn out 10+ years ago. Both my wife and myself emptied our selves physically, financially, and spiritually in 25yrs of ministering in a church plant (15+ yrs)and another church devastated by a church split. In both churches we lived with three small children. We had very little to live on with the church plant having 0 financial support so both myself and my wife worked to support the ministry. The second church was in financial strife after a very hurtful split and so we struggled to minister healing and reconciliation. While in this ministry my wife became pregnant and was unable to keep working so the ministry pressure and need to work outside church ministry compounded the pressure until it broke me!
I am no longer in ministry, and 10+ years after resigning my credentials as an elder in the Church I am still a broken man.
I tell you all this to say that God does NOT expect us to suffer in ministry to the point of failure. Don't stay living in a state of regret in the present, or you will live in the future with much greater regret than you can imagine. My wife and I should have got out the situation we were in but we tried to make it work with more personal sacrifice - it did not work and my life and that of my wife's will never be the same again. All I can say to you is look for doors in your life that God can open. Doors to bring about change to give you and your Husband the Joy of living. Don,t stay trapped in a situation that will eventually crush you spiritually, Financially, and Emotionally!!

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