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.