Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thousands of Pastors Will Burn Out and Leave the Ministry This Year

In the recent addition of Christianity Today Karl Vaters writes:

"This year, thousands [of pastors] will leave the ministry, burned out and hurting. From big and small churches, growing and stagnant ones." 

This is, writes Vaters, an "epidemic." (Vaters, "Epidemic: Another Pastor Burned Out and Quit Last Sunday")

Scholars have been writing about clergy burnout for decades. Not only is this phenomenon still with us, it seems to be accelerating. 

One cause of this is people's expectations of what a pastor should be. Vaters writes:

"We have to let go of the unbiblical expectations that have been placed on pastors' shoulders. That we’ve placed on our own shoulders. Pastors were never meant to carry this big a burden. No one person is capable of being the preacher, teacher, vision-caster, CEO, leader, evangelist, soul-winner, fundraiser, marriage counselor, and all-around paragon of virtue that we expect pastors to pull off – many of them while working a full-time job outside the church walls."
I often thank God that forty years ago he led me to take a half day every week to go alone to a quiet place and meet with him. (In my book Praying I write about this, and in seminaries and conferences I teach pastors how to do this.)
No pastor is immune, whether their church is micro or mega. The burnout is happening weekly. For example, Pete Wilson pastored a church of 7000. Until last weekend, when he stepped down. Wilson told his church family this:
"I haven’t prioritized some other things that were equally as important. Leaders who lead on empty don’t lead well. For some time, I’ve been leading on empty… I think the best thing for Cross Point is for me to step aside. And so I’m resigning as the pastor of Cross Point … I really need your prayers and I need your support. We’ve said that this is a church where it’s OK to not be OK, and I’m not OK. I’m tired. And I’m broken and I just need some rest." ("Megachurch Pastor Pete Wilson Is Resigning: "I'm Not OK. I'm Tired. I'm Broken.")
Vaters asks us all to pause, and pray. He writes:
"Today, let's pause. Take a breath. And pray.
Pray for the hurting pastors, known and unknown, who have left a church they loved - and maybe still love.
Pray for the famous pastors suffering under the unbearable glare of the spotlight.
Pray for the unknown pastors feeling lost and forgotten.
Pray for their families who have borne years of pain silently, and who are bearing even more right now.
Pray for the church members who don't know whether to feel angry, sad or something else.
Pray that the God who promised that his yoke was easy and his burden light, will ease the much heavier burdens we have placed on our own shoulders. And replace it with his peace, his comfort and his hope."