Apostolic Ministry Church Planting

Avoiding Ministry Burn Out

Ministry Burn Out

There is a phenomenon in ministry called “ministry burn out”. Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more of my friends in ministry find themselves in a place where they are more stressed, tired and wounded than ever. Could it be there is a reason for all of this?  The Bible doesn’t mention anything about pastoral burn out and how to deal with it. Jesus doesn’t seem to burn out in His full time ministry to thousands of people and we have no mention of Paul taking a year “sabbatical” to rest. Instead we see the Apostles being beaten, tortured and put in jail. (Something that American church leaders are hardly accustomed to)

Here are some sobering statistics published by the New York Times in August of 2010. Here is the original article

  • 13% of active pastors are divorced.
  • Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members.
  • The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions.
  • 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
  • 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
  • 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 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.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
  • Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.
  • So whats the solution?

    Friends, I submit to you that what is happening during our meetings is important, but how the church is structured is also just as important to create a healthy, life giving, organic ministry where pastors don’t get burned out. In most cases, this type of burn out only happens in “top down” church ministry where one person is responsible for doing all the planning, preaching, caring and service to everyone else. At the end of the day, this person gets no caring, service or preaching themselves which results in crash and burn.

    Church is not a business with a CEO at the top and everyone following orders. Church is a community which is built upon relationship, friendship and everyone participating in ministry. This takes time to implement, which not a lot of American ministries are willing to sacrifice. With financial pressures, there is often the scramble to get people in the door, praying and giving. Are you willing to give up the bottom line of ministry in exchange for your health, marriage and spiritual life?




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      July 9, 2011 at 5:03 am

      Great Thoughts!

      Sandra Humphrey

      July 23, 2011 at 1:15 am

      Your statistics on clergy burnout are staggering, but when one thinks about the diversity of their roles and the expectations others have for them, I guess their burnout is certainly understandable. Plenty of food for thought here!


        July 25, 2011 at 3:00 am

        We both need to help our pastors understand they can't do it alone and also step up into our God ordained ministry of caring for others in our church family. Thanks for sharing Sandra!

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