The word “burnout” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as “the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time.”
Travis Collins, the author of For Ministers about to Start…or about to Give Up, says the research has shown that 75 percent experience “severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation” at some point in their lives. Further, ministers join doctors and attorneys among those with the highest rates of addiction and suicide.
Here are 6 tips for those who are getting close to, or are right in the middle of, a season of burnout.
- Get some far-away friends.
It’s true that you shouldn’t complain to people in the parish about your cranky deacons, nor should you get advice about whether to fire a staff member from your small group. But you still need to talk about that stuff. I’d recommend finding two or three friends who don’t live in your town and don’t attend your parish. Ideally, these would be other pastors or parish leaders who know you well and understand the dynamics of leading in a church context. They can provide perspective and wisdom that will lift you out of the quicksand you currently find yourself in.
- Amp up your learning.
It is easy for the well to run dry when we aren’t constantly filling it back up. If you are going to stay fresh, you need to continually be learning. In addition to books or blogs or podcasts, it is recommended that you go away a couple times a year to learn from others. By getting away, you are clearing your mind and freeing yourself to think new and different thoughts, without being stuck in your current reality.
- Take a sabbatical.
Every parish leader can send himself or herself on a sabbatical. But if it is within your power or influence to do so, create a policy to send every full-time pastor or minister at your parish on an extended sabbatical every seven to ten years. A good friend of mine was able to take a sabbatical after 20 years of ministry, and he said it wasn’t until the second month before his mind was free enough to be renewed at a deep level in his soul and heart.
- Find a hobby.
If your entire life revolves around your parish, then you are heading down a path toward disaster. Whether it is golf, video games, cooking, house projects, or underwater basket-weaving—find something you can do that uses an entirely different side of your brain and brings you joy.
- Build a team.
This is especially directed toward those who are creating sermons every week—put together a creative team to help brainstorm, research, write, and even deliver your homily. News flash: You don’t have to be the origin of all homily content at your parish! There are great people who currently attend your parish or are on staff, and by harnessing their creativity you will reduce the risk of running dry.
- Get counseling.
It is not a failure to seek counseling. Sometimes when we can talk to someone else about the darkest, driest, most hidden parts of our soul—we can find healing and freedom before we make a choice that will sideline our ministry.
Burnout can lead to some poor choices. And poor choices can devastate a parish. So, whether it’s new friends, calling a counselor, or picking up your favorite meal on the way home—take a step toward health and wholeness today.
ParishSOFT Can Help
ParishSOFT has over two decades of experience working with dioceses and parishes of all sizes. For more ideas and suggestions on how we can help your parish, please contact us online or call 866-930-4774 x6