(A Pastor to Pastor Special Edition)
By Jay Lewis, Hope Komarynsky and Michelle Martin
Listen to an audio version of this article.
In the early 1990s, while in seminary, we were warned that 8 out of 10 of us would no longer be in vocational ministry within 10 years. I am a survivor, but at times, it seemed I was holding on by a mere thread. Unrealistic expectations from myself and members of congregations plus long hours (never really off the clock) all contributed to depression, anxiety, and a sense of being trapped. When these factors are coupled with lower income and the effects on physical health, many pastors just “cash it in” and do something they believe will be less stressful.
After 35 years in vocational ministry, I understand the statistics related to pastoral burnout.
- 75% of pastors surveyed by SoulShepherding report being extremely stressed.
- 90% feel fatigued and worn out at the end of the week.
- 90% also say they work 55-75 hours per week.
This is alarming! For me, my calling to shepherd God’s people and my strong desire to preach and teach God’s Word was the holy fire that burned in me. That passion alone propelled me through many difficult seasons…barely. Many pastors feel like they cannot be vulnerable and have no one they can talk to confidentially. When they do share with someone, the stress of being “found out” becomes another pressure point. Eventually, though, I got the help I desperately needed. It was when I found safe, confidential people to talk to that I felt the embers of new hope ignite within me. Both my wife and I began to realize the importance of taking care of ourselves first. Only then could we truly care for our congregation.
Since then, I have decided to purposefully encourage pastors and church staff dealing with unrealistic expectations and the constant stress of vocational ministry. My goal is to show them there is hope even in the midst of ministry challenges. Now, as a Certified Christian Coach, I effectively partner with these Godly men and women “in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coach Federation). So, while walking alongside them, tools are both introduced and implemented to help navigate the rigors of ministry. Vocational ministry need not be a lonely profession that depletes our energy and extinguishes the fire God placed in our hearts to shepherd and care for His flock.
One of the first things I learned is how empowering it is to just sit and read the Word of God, allowing Him to speak to me personally. Not for a sermon or Bible lesson, just me. This has proven to be the most important part of my personal soul care. “When everything else drains us, the Scriptures refresh us because they are the perfect words of the gracious God who renews us.” (article by Clay Porr, Refresh your Soul-Psalm 19). In order for me to keep the embers glowing, this must take precedence. Each ministry leader will learn the areas they personally need to prioritize to keep the Holy Spirit’s Fire burning deep in their soul as well as their personal life and ministry. Balance can help bring peace and renewal.
As a pastor, it’s exciting to be a part of the Coaching team at HopeNet. When God calls an individual to devote themselves to shepherding His people, He promises to provide all the necessary resources. HopeNet is one such resource available in Wichita and surrounding areas. As we coach individuals, we trust the Holy Spirit to direct our conversations. We don’t give formulas or quick fixes; we experience God providing creativity, insight and wisdom to meet the needs and refresh the soul. We listen; we encourage and together we create steps forward.
There is a Hope that keeps the embers of that Holy Fire glowing, alive and sustainable. That Hope comes from the Light of the Father Who loves us. He is the One that called us. It is He that will renew, refresh and reignite our passion. Please, let me place this courage in your weary spirit:
It is possible to thrive in vocational ministry rather than just exist.
His Spirit can and will take just the tiniest flicker of hope and breathe into it ~ Life. Hope. Fire. In time, those sweet holy flames will reappear to warm your soul and create His Light to draw others to Him through you.
If you are “holding on by a thread”….
If you are tired, perhaps just seeing that “thread possibility” looming…
If you’re full steam ahead but see the value of burnout prevention safeguards…
I have a message for you:
YOU are not alone.
Reread those statistics: you are in the silent majority.
I am putting together a “6 x 6” pilot coaching group of area pastors. It will meet for SIX weeks on Monday evenings. Please call HopeNet at 684-4673 to reserve your safe and confidential place to find the kindling to rebuild your fire.
This group is FREE to first 6 people to register!
Mondays, July 12-August 16, 6:00-8:00 PM