It seems that men and women in full-time ministry often experience burn out.  Why is this so?  Do we expect too much from pastors?  Do pastors expect too much of themselves?  Should pastors have more time in personal counseling to talk about concerns and issues that arise from ministry?  Are those that supervise pastors (Sr. Pastors, Board members) too demanding on pastors?  Is it more difficult that we expect ministry to be? 


The most difficult of this reality is that people often leave full-time ministry; never to return.  This is a tragedy.  But it also makes me wonder if someone who finally walks away from full-time, professional church ministry was ever meant to be in that role.  Or if it were only for a season.


Is full-time church ministry just that difficult that it chews people up and casts them aside?  This doesn’t seem like the way it should be.

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  1. I think the everyone expects the pastor and his family to be perfect…..and expects alot from them…forgetting they are only 1 person….BURNOUT!!!!!  SAD BUT TRUE

  2. It also depends on the church.  The pastoral staff and support system make a big difference.  Expectations and demands, friends, accountability, and strong family ties also make a difference.  And yes…many times pastors hide their problems because of the pressure to have it all together.  I don’t think burn out means they were never meant for the ministry.  It just shows that somewhere in their life they are unbalanced or unhealthy.  I speak from experience.  Thankfully, we were mentored by very wonderful pastors.  Some are not so lucky.  Sometimes church members and boards treat their pastors terribly.  This leads to bitterness, pain, and many times leaving the church.  Every single situation and church is different.

  3. Full time ministry is difficult, but it shouldn’t cause burn-out. That comes, I think, from a number of things. The biggest reason is when we (full time ministers) let the buisiness from ministry fully take over our time, we forget to connect to Christ who is our strength and the reason we do what we do. I know what it is like in full time ministry, it is hard to find balance!

  4. Ministry is hard that’s fure sure.  Being a full-time youth pastor is really demanding.  In my setting I have to be a worship pastor, a tech guy, a youth pastor, an administrator and more; all that to say, if I don’t delegate, plan, and free other people to serve just as I am I will burn out this year!  There’s alot of pressure in ministry, but its really rewarding.  It def. takes a calling.  I’m learning a lot.

  5. I think that any and all of the above is true… sometimes the call was simply for a season… sometimes it wasn’t there to begin with… sometimes the demands were too great and the expectations both personal and imposed by others were too high… I think that the key to avoiding burn out is to really know ourselves… I heard an amazing sermon that I’d be glad to burn and mail to all interested on the X factor… remembering the reason why we do what we do… the point where our passion began will help us to maintain… AND call me Tim Wolf… but I think EVERYONE needs counseling… If I could afford a therapist… I’d so have one just for the fun of it!

  6. I don’t know if my blog helped spur on some of these thoughts, but yes, I Brian Greene burnt out. Now that I have had almost a year to reflect on it… here’s why:
    1) My wife got very sick and was in and out of the hospital for 6 months. Previous to her diagnosis we stuggled with that reality and it took its toll on me, her, our ministry, and our teens.
    2) I got severely clinnically depressed due to my work schedule, self-inflicted expectations, a struggling work relationship with my pastor, and a major juxtaposition in our views of what a Pastor is and what he does.
    3) I buried myself in work to cope, it was one of the few things in my life that was blossoming and rewarding. I was Youth Pastoring 2 youth ministries, leading worship at both, leading 2 leadership teams, administrating all Sun Morning Kids Ministries, Teaching/Pastoring Elementary age kids, preaching 1 time a quarter on Sun Morning in Adult Services, and leading a small group. At the time it didn’t seem as overwhelming as it does just writing it out!
    4) Bethany and I started getting counseling at Emerge… Shout Out to Ron Turner, the best counselor/friend we had in that time.
    5) But the thing that killed me was my struggling relationship with my senior pastor. It was his unrealistic expectations that I felt killed me. I talked to him often about it, and he wouldn’t budge. A clinical counselor, he believed my tardiness or lack of energy was due to a lack of discipline (not my rampant depression). Regardless of what activity I had going on the night before or what time it ended, I had to be in the office for office hours… stuff like that, that I understand was important to him, and therefore should be important to me, but I just physically couldn’t keep up with the demands of his expectations.
    So does this mean that I wasn’t called or am not called to pursue ministry? No. Romans is clear “the gifts and the call of God is irrevocable.” I am called to pastor, I just need to be somewhere that fits me and my philosophy of ministry. I think that is why so many brun out: they are in the wrong fit and spend all their energy fighting losing battles. At least, that is my story. My ministry never struggled during this time (both youth ministries and kids programs were growing), my marriage stayed together (even though it was tough) and we pressed through that time, and I think it all could have been avoided if my Sr Pastor and I could have come to a solid compromise. We didn’t and it broke my heart to leave, but what else can you do?
    Burn out happens, its messy, and we cloud it in mysterious spiritual language… the crux of the problem in my mind is that it doesn’t matter what you do in ministry if your superior(s) expect you to be something you’re not.

  7. Could it have something to do with the fact that someone in full-time ministry has a 100+ bosses, all with differing, but strong, opinions about how he/she should do the job?  Come look at some of the job descriptions posted at the grad school sometime.  Churches want to hire a superman- PART TIME.   Or perhaps the average pastor is not good at boundaries and when you work a job where your work is never done… boundaries are essential. 

  8. Burnout, I’m not sure?  I do believe that people’s expectations are unreasonable at times.  I believe that less professional ministers would burnout if there was more balance in their lives.  By balance, I mean:
    1) do you have a personal growth plan that keeps you on track with not only your professional growth, but your personal growth as well?
    2) do you give into people’s expectations, even when unreasonable?
    3) are the lines of communication open between you and the people that have the expectations for you?  i.e. senior pastor, board members, congregation?
    i believe that there are a certain amount of pastors that are burning out because of the people around them.  they are burning out because the people that have expectations for them are unhealthy themselves, therefore, they create an unhealthy environment for the pastor.  this will turn about when we as professional clergy change our approach to pastoring. but, on the other hand, i believe that there are a certain amount of pastors that are burning out on their own accord.  they don’t know when to say no, they don’t know when to say yes.  this will turn around when the lines of gut honest level communication are opened up, and the thoughts and feelings of all our hearts are responded too.

  9. Well… I have been experiencing this for about a year now… and it’s so sad. I’m one that Jen said: expected to be super-woman at part-time. And yes… you feel the expectations of every parishner because you “work for Christ.” BUT DON’T WE ALL!
    The past December, our board met and discussions rose about raises and bonuses. It was decided against, because we work for Christ and therefore money shouldn’t matter. It’s ridiculous… sure, money shouldn’t drive me to do what I do, and I sometimes get frustrated with myself for wanting more, but it’s the mose satisfactory way for appreciation and compensation.
    I’m only a youth pastor… which I think creates a different burn-out then pastor, but I have been severly dissapointed. I’ve learned I have to forgive the church (small c) because it is a human vessel and continue to hope for the Church (big C). Ministry, at least where I am at now, can be a lonely place with constant expectations and assumptions that because you work for God all is always good and I will not accept that lie.
    Thansk for being concerned about this Jesse… I know not all people and churches are how I described above… but too many are.

  10. Anonymous

    I would love to talk in depth about this with you. I know I might be objected to in this but here is my take. We live in a world and church that is all about measuring. We don’t intend to but because of many reasons: some may be personal family history, our own emotional baggage, the enemy, and just living in this crazy world.About 15 years ago, I was broken into a billion pieces. Mornings I would simply say ‘ help’. to God.Two things that were and are deeply ingrained into a place inside are these:I will never be separated from His Love.I can do absolutely nothing, I mean nothing without Him doing it.

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