Some Wisdom For Every Pastor Who Wants to Finish Well – Part 2


Last week I offered part one of a challenge to other pastors to do the things that will help avoid burnout. I felt compelled to write because too many pastors are tanking, up and quitting. Part of the problem can be the church, but some of the onus is on us pastors to do our part.

In my first segment I suggested three important elements that though not full-proof, are essential to not letting the pressures of ministry take us out. Here’s a list of my first three points: quit trying to please everyone, take your vacation time/rest well and get some friends. Read part 1 for the details.

Let me add a few more.

Stop comparing your church, ministry and talents to others. Comparing is a black hole. You will find an endless supply of examples that will make you feel like a failure. And whether they are really succeeding as much as they appear, it will still feel like it. Their church is bigger, they preach better, they write books, conferences are calling them to speak and they’re getting known all over the country or whatever.

I know it isn’t easy, but as the old, but true adage suggests, there is really only one important person in your audience – Jesus. If you please Him the rest really don’t matter. And we can forget that while we may have what appears to be a smaller influence, our touch of a few people can be passed on like falling dominoes to thousands or even millions of others. We may never know the final result but we need to leave that to God.

Learn to delegate better, teach others to lead in your place and ultimately do what you do even better. We so believe sometimes that if our eye isn’t on something, overseeing a ministry or being consulted that it will fail. And you know what, it might. Or it won’t have the quality we wanted. It’s time to let that go. Of course, we shouldn’t just not care. But when we free people to serve, lead and do what we do we are truly reproducing others to do the work of ministry.

Want to leave a legacy?  Leave people who have learned to do ministry better than you do. And in the process you will hand off a lot of stress and angst. You’ll know you’re making progress when there are more and more effective ministries going on in your church that you know nothing about!

Finally, give your ministry back to God. And before this sounds like just a nice, spiritual ending let me make it very real. Think about developing a teaching team if you’re the main teacher. Become more visible to your people. So many big-church, influential, popular, powerful pastors quit connecting with the average attender. And while there are logistical reasons why keeping distance in certain settings is necessary, find ways to still be available to your congregation.

Hollywood stars, famous athletes, powerful politicians and the like do that. Is that what you want to be, feel you need be, deep down are a little glad you’ve become? Give it up. The siren call of perceived power will always want more.

Yes, pastor, there may be times when you should consider another option outside of ministry. Pray and seek out all the wisdom you can find. But if you’re thinking of leaving just because it’s become too hard or the pressure is overwhelming, at least try making a few changes before you make a decision you’ll regret. It might be that you can avoid burning out and just get a little more fire under you that will change your mind and heart so you thrive again.


Some Wisdom For Every Pastor Who Wants To Finish Well – Part 1

xburnout-90345_640-pagespeed-ic-eiysmvjvlaAnother well known pastor just quit the ministry.  He left a large, thriving, growing church because he was burnt out. Apparently pastors of all sizes, traditions, styles and locations of congregations continue to pack it in and call it quits.

Why the continued mass exodus from ministry?  It would be easy to focus on one reason as the culprit: “It’s the pastor’s fault,” “The church puts too many demands on pastors these days,” “Churches don’t have enough staff,” “Young leaders don’t know how to manage their time and be effective leaders. . . .” You may have expressed your own opinions publicly or privately.

As someone who was a pastor for twenty-seven years in three churches – one medium-sized, one mega and one small – I can tell you there are multiple potential reasons and solutions. And I’ve been close to being burned out myself.

But there is no one size fits all problem or fix. Every situation will be different because every congregation, pastor or family is different. What works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else and vice versa.

But there are some basics, just as there are for being a great golfer, manager, musician or cook, that each pastor should make sure are in their personal recipe for leading their church, living life and doing their ministry. Yes, there are probably some pastors who would give in even if they did all the things I’ll suggest but I am confident that making these a high priority would stop a lot of unnecessary endings of church ministry.

So here we go. Part one. I will add part two in my next post.

One, quit trying to please everyone. This didn’t work for Jesus and it won’t work for you. You can hope to please people but don’t demand it. We have leaders, past leaders, Elders, staff and congregations with fifty to five thousand or more attending and we start to believe that some of those people will die or implode if their pastor is imperfect or can’t do everything.

This is going to sound crass but after twenty-seven years in ministry, I really don’t care if people disagree with me, have another opinion or leave the church. If I and our team have done the best we can do with God’s direction and leading, then I’ll sleep at night even if they tell me they’re mad at me. And if the church says it’s time for me to move on, I will do just that. I think Jesus said something about that anyway.

Of course, we should always try to humbly learn from those who criticize and disagree because we’re human and sometimes we do mess up and have things to learn. But you can avoid burnout if you accept that you won’t every have everyone liking all your ideas, messages or decisions. I’ve told many people to remember that the Trinity does not include them. I had to learn that it’s not God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and Gary!

God can handle the rest.

Two, take your vacation and more off.  I hear of pastors all the time (and I’ve been one of them) who nobly share that they didn’t use all their vacation weeks. Let me say this nicely: you’re an idiot and you’re no hero. In fact you are a bad leader setting a terrible example for your staff and people. Even Jesus rested.

And when you are on vacation BE on vacation. No, you can’t be calling the church or checking your emails or reading Spurgeon unless you’re reading Spurgeon’s little known mystery novel, Murder in Essex Village. Unless Jesus returns or you have a major family tragedy, the church can take care of itself while you’re gone. Let them. And if Jesus did return and you’re still here, then you might as well stay on vacation anyway.

In fact, before you take another job or in your current one, nicely suggest to the leadership team that you need at least three if not four weeks  or more off and you plan to take every day of it. Have a day or day and a half off each week and enjoy every minute of it. Where in the Bible does it say that Sabbath rest can be skipped if you’re in ministry?

And if your leadership team is wise they’ll suggest you take a mini-sabbatical, perhaps in the summer, to just rest your mind, voice and heart so that you can better plan for Fall. In addition, remember that vacation, Sabbath and little bits of time off are where you keep your family and spouse, if married, an important part of your life. I’ve seen too many pastors as well who are rarely seen in the presence of their spouse or spending regular time with family.

Three, get some friends. I know that’s not easy and you will probably have to choose carefully, but you need some people in your life with whom you can just be yourself. There might be someone from your church in that circle, but the best ones may be people apart from your congregation and even outside of ministry. You figure it out for you.

You might also do some things in the community where you’re not the pastor, you’re just one of the guys or ladies. Perhaps you can start a hobby or new activity where you hang out with neighbors, other community people or whoever. Whatever you do, be around people who don’t really need you or look to you for advice. Of course, we always want to look for opportunities to share our faith, but isn’t that what normal people should do anyway?

Well, there are more things to share. I’ll put those in my next post. But how about starting on one or more of these if they need to be worked on. Being on fire for Jesus is very different than burning out. More next time.