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2 simple ways to recover from leadership burnout

| by Jonathan Hayashi

Burnout is almost an epidemic among church leaders today. In Barna’s most recent research on “The State of Pastors,” a comprehensive, whole-life assessment of U.S. pastors was accomplished. The study on the risk of burnout, relational breakdown or spiritual problems shown through these statistics reveals the staggering reality.

•    1,500 pastors walk away from ministry each month

•    One out of every 10 ministers who start in ministry retire in ministry

•    27 percent of pastors admitted that caring less about the opinions of others would have helped prevent burnout

•    50 percent of pastors’ wives say that their husband entering ministry was destructive to their family

•    70 percent of pastors say that they don’t have a real, close friend

•    75 percent of pastors report that they either sometimes or frequently struggle with mental and emotional exhaustion

The reality is that the majority of people who start in ministry don’t finish in ministry. Too often, ministry leaders are simply on autopilot. If you’re on a leadership position and your goal is to survive then you may be facing burnout. The goal of leadership is not to survive. The goal of leadership is to help you thrive.

We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results – R. A. Torrey

My heart is for every leader to get out of the trap of being busy but not productive, of working long hours but producing less than hoped for.

“Burnout,” in the context of ministry, is too often defined as losing the heart for ministry. 

The reality is if we work hard in ministry, we will feel like the candle is extinguished at the end of most days. That’s not what we mean by “burnout” because that’s a pretty satisfying feeling of exhaustion. 

Here are two ways pastors can recover from their burnout.

1. Take a break and get away.  

Proximity is a matter of this as well. There are times we have to get away. Even if that means to the other side of the town. It may mean going into the woods and taking a walk.

If you are really called to ministry, we must ask one fundamental question, “What in the world can nullify that call? If we define our joy in Christ, what in the world can nullify that joy?” Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, nothing can nullify that joy.

Nothing can put an end to that calling. 

2. Reach out and help. 

Go help someone, put up dry wall, dig a ditch or make a model airplane! You will discover in that process your heart is reset.

If you need a recharge in ministry, go teach Sunday school and catch the children’s infectious joy. 

“Burnout” may be more than a heart issue 

Whatever your position and the amount of encouraging feedback you get is ultimately a matter of God’s provision. And in these cases, burnout may be a matter of the heart. 

However, there may be times when legitimate psychological issues are involved. Intense problems of a unique context may require professional help. In those cases, please seek specific help as the burnout may be more severe. 

Regardless of the root of burnout, know that our Savior is right there with us.

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Photo source: istock 

Jonathan Hayashi

Jonathan Hayashi (B.A. and M.A., Moody Theological Seminary) is a Pastoral staff at Troy First Baptist Church in Troy, Missouri. He is also a Doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to that, he served at an inner-city church in Chicago, Illinois for six years and taught Apologetics/Philosophy at the PGM center. He is married to Kennedi and a father to two beautiful daughters.

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O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 (ESV)
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