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The Ministry Curse Words…

 —  July 9, 2013 — 4 Comments
burnout_syndrom

picture courtesy of iburnout.com

 

 

It has happened to me.  Lying in bed at night exhausted and spent staring at the ceiling I wonder “why” I’m in ministry anymore. Honestly, in various seasons of life the push has been different.  Sometimes I have lost sight of the reality my calling is to my Savior not to my “to do” list. Other times my focus has become on the circumstances that cause stress.  As someone in ministry I’m never to mutter what is really going on in my heart.

Burnout, there I said it.

According to an Aug1, 2010 article in the New York Times:

  • Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.
  • 40% of those in ministry and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.

As if to prove the stats, I know I could answer “yes” to many of those statements.  In the past week alone I have had four conversations with some who are at the breaking point, or have fallen apart.  One ministry leader had an affair and no one even suspected, another had a mental breakdown, and one set is in the midst of a divorce.

If we are to combat these “curse words,”  where do we begin?

1.    Acknowledge The Reality:

We feel like there is no one to tell.  Those we minister to, with and for want more of our time not less.  Are you grappling with an ongoing bitterness, or resentment towards your schedule, spouse or circumstances?  Have you lost your passion for Christ and your ministry?  Do you continually place blame on your leadership for “not allowing” you to slow down? Has your identity become wrapped up in your “role” more than being a child of the living God?

 

2.  Know the Signs:

According to Cathy Gates director of Transformation Leadership International there are three telling signs that we are headed for a breakdown:

  • Emotional and physical exhaustion: You feel worn out physically and emotionally. You have no energy; feel depleted, debilitated and fatigued.
  • Depersonalized response toward others: You find yourself displaying negative or inappropriate attitudes toward people. Your sense of idealism disappears. You are irritated by others much more easily.
  • Reduced sense of personal accomplishment: You experience reduced productivity and low morale. You find yourself withdrawing from your responsibilities and from others. Your ability to cope with day to day stress is significantly decreased.

Our first steps to “undoing” this struggle is to begin to bring it into the light.  If you have grappled with burn out, what are the first steps you would take?

Take a look at tomorrow as we discuss daily steps we can take to get back from this place.

 

Leneita Fix

Leneita Fix

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Leneita Fix is the Director of Ministry Development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years. In addition she has launched the coaching and resource organization, Front Line Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace serving those who work with families living in survival mode. The early years were spent in camp ministry, suburban and rural youth groups. With the Lord’s moving the last 17 of those years have been spent ministering in three different urban areas to primarily unchurched families (New Jersey, Virginia, Florida back to New Jersey). Her responsibilities have included Bible based program direction for children ages 5-18, curriculum writing, staff training and recruiting, discipleship, resource creation and speaking to national audiences. Her passion is to raise up workers in practical, relationship-driven methods while remaining in the trenches with the youth and families she loves. Her goal is to help others understand every student living in a survival mindset can and will be transformed in Christ. One of her greatest joys is serving in ministry as a family with her husband three wonderful children, and her niece. Simply she resides among her friends in the city just living life as a family that loves being there. You can contact her at leneitafix@aslanyouth.org.

4 responses to The Ministry Curse Words…

  1. Definitely understand the no close friends. My wife and I never have anyone to hang out with. It sucks.

  2. Wow! This is a very good article. Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to your solutions.

  3. Just searching the web for any help, and I found this. I wonder if I could pose a question here? It may not be the proper setting and you may have an actual place for this message to be initially posted, but…

    I’ve been in youth ministry for almost 17 years, and I STILL love seeing kids “get it”! I served full time in a church early on and left after 4 years (2002-2006). God blew up the youth from just 2 students to over 130 in that span. I absolutely loved it and thought it was a huge foam football finger pointing to the Great Commission! Apparently, when the youth outgrow the church, it’s a sign of disrespect or something? Anyway, I left ministry for about 4 1/2 years, although I helped out in town with other church’s wanting to start youth ministries. But I was fairly miserable, because I wasn’t in my call. Now, I’m back in full time, being called in August of 2011 to a church where the people are very loving. It’s helped with the hurt we’ve experienced over the years (a story too long to tell, but one I’m sure that’s been told a million times by others), and I do believe this church is different. But there is a situation I walked into when I accepted the call here: The church has been through many youth pastors in the years (another common theme), and I’ve been determined to be here and push through, until Jesus calls me away (another common theme among us). There was a youth team already here, with a “subconscious” leader and we all bonded very quickly. This team weathered the storm of “come and go” youth leaders, and have stuck together. They rely on each other, which is completely understandable. The first 6 months, you couldn’t stop us! Growing like crazy, growing TOGETHER like crazy! Man, it was awesome. However, the past 1 1/2 years have been more difficult. The team and myself have been growing apart. Some of this is due to the fact that I can lead worship (although the original plan was to just be the youth pastor), and when the first one left, I was “asked” to fill in until we found another one. A request I was more than willing to fill, for the greater good of the body of course. The next one stayed 3 weeks. Yup, 3 weeks. And yet again, I was back up there, training and leading the choir, developing worship sets for three services, and oh yeah…….being the youth pastor. We’ve got another guy now, but it’s limited progress at best. He has yet to accept the 21st century and all it’s wonderful tools like computers, Planning Center, Pro Presenter, etc. Anyway, it’s taken a lot away from my true heart and calling as one could imagine. The youth team has recognized this as a problem for me, but as time has wore on, they’ve become frustrated with the lack of leadership in the youth program. Mainly, me. And I can understand that too. We’ve had 2 meetings to vent and sort it all out, which went well. And they brought up a point about my not releasing the hurt I’ve been through in my past church’s. I can see that too, and I’m going to counseling to help get past that.

    So, what can I do to help foster a good communication between a hurt youth pastor, and a team that has always been together without one?

    Thank you,
    Matt

    • Leneita Fix

      Matt,

      Thanks so much for sharing SO much! It is vital to get it all out there and to just be willing to let it go. I have been there with the wounds you carry around. Tomorrow I am posting some things on scheduling that I think will help in a practical way. However,communication is vital. The team needs you to keep looking to you as the leader- as you delegate to them. In the midst of the craziness I would also have CLEAR communication. I suggest a weekly email- if you can’t have personal touch base, or a weekly meeting. Then hold everyone accountable to reading it. In the email give different people clearly defined roles. These can change week to week- but who is in charge of set up, follow up, planning etc. For the time being you may need to be more of an administrator of the youth programming. They are looking to you for direction. They love the youth or they wouldn’t have stuck it out this long, but in addition they want you to lead them. PLEASE email me. leneitafix@gmail.com and we can even set up a time to chat further!

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