Part 2: When Stress Leads To Burnout In Pastors And Church Leaders – Signs Of Burnout

Continued from: Part 1: When Stress Leads To Burnout In Pastors And Church Leaders – Why It Happens

Pastors, as “men and women of God,” are often regarded more as superheroes than regular, fallible human beings. The pressure to be perfect, to have a perfect family and to have perfect relationships with every member of the congregation creates an unrealistic set of expectations, not to mention acute pressure. This expectation often forces pastors to hide their own sin and struggles, rather than address them, for fear of ostracism, not to mention the loss of their jobs. Evasion only leads to greater problems down the road.

In addition to the high set of expectations, the job is often a thankless one. People assume pastors don’t need appreciation, that they can handle everything and that the satisfaction they get from serving the Lord is enough to keep them going. They often don’t receive the same care or grace that would be extended to “regular” members of the congregation.

More Reasons Why Burnout Happens

Debt And Lack Of Job Security

Signs of Burnout - www.ChristianDrugRehab.comMoney is usually a sticky topic in churches, and pastors may be leery of asking for the salary they need in order to support their families. In many cases they are going into debt to close the gap as they are simultaneously being told, “the Lord will provide.” Stress mounts.

It is also assumed that for one in ministry, the reward is in eternity, thus the church doesn’t need to be concerned with shelling out as much in the here and now. Many times, especially in small churches, pastors are watched carefully in their spending, having to justify a new car, household purchases, vacations, leisure and things that other families buy without question.

Many pastors and their families also face the stress of an uncertain professional future, especially in small or economically challenged churches where the attrition of a few key donors could wipe out one’s salary.

Marital And Family Strife

The job and calling of a pastor can put significant strain on his or her family, leading to deep marital problems. The amount of time and energy the pastor is required to spend on work and tending to the needs of the congregation can mean the pastor’s spouse is sorely neglected and left to handle the majority, if not all, of the domestic work. The spouse may also be employed, and in some cases even supporting the pastor financially.

Why Does Burnout Matter?

Burnout is more than just feeling frustrated, unhappy or discontent. It is a condition that affects one’s spiritual condition and the degree to which he or she is able to pour into others. It can also lead to anxiety, depression, addiction, neglect of family, neglect of physical health, marital problems/divorce, extramarital affairs, quitting the ministry and even desertion of the faith altogether. This can have a lasting negative impact on the entire church as well as the individual and his or her family, which is why preventing, recognizing and addressing burnout is so important.

Recognizing Burnout

Burnout has become so common today that we often don’t recognize it in ourselves or others. Whether in a ministry position or a secular profession, high stress and burnout have become the norm. However, the consequences can be grave.

Signs Of Burnout

These common signs of burnout can help you to recognize an unhealthy condition in yourself, a loved one, your pastor or a fellow leader:

  • Exhaustion, lack of energy and ongoing fatigue. Sleep doesn’t help.
  • Lack of enthusiasm and energy for the work and projects which were once engaging and exciting
  • Withdrawal and isolation — the pastor and family may withdraw as a unit, or the pastor may withdraw from church and family. This includes pulling away physically as well as emotionally.
  • Loneliness
  • Bitterness, irritation, cynicism and pessimism in increasing measures
  • Reduced productivity, inability to concentrate and get things done
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Stress-related illness, such as migraines or digestive distress
  • Frequent sickness
  • Dreading work
  • Escapism — video games, recreation, porn
  • Escalating alcohol consumption and/or drug use
  • A sense of meaninglessness and/or hopelessness
  • Spiritual distance, a cooled relationship with God, and/or lack of desire to pray, read Scripture or seek God’s help

By Jacki Christopher

See: Part 3: When Stress Leads To Burnout In Pastors And Church Leaders – 10 Tips To Deal With Burnout