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Clergy burnout: what causes it, how do you avoid it?

Clergy burnout: what causes it, how do you avoid it?

The Florida Times-Union published a lengthy story yesterday on clergy burnout and how to avoid it. The story quotes these troubling statistics: 80 percent of clergy say their job negatively affects their families and almost 60 percent say they would leave ministry if they had another vocation.

We’d like to hear from clergy among our readership about what wears you down and how you attempt to take care of yourself. If you are experiencing a vocational crisis and want to comment anonymously, we can make that work.

Here is one of the more revealing passages from the story, which also focuses on the need for clergy to better communicate the time-consuming nature of much of their work, and on the need to set healthy boundaries.

It also comes from a growing belief that pastors should be the personal counselors of each member of the congregation, who tend to call their pastor at the slightest experience of stress.

“Most people can’t discern between a need and a want,” he said, adding that many “crises” are just a desire to pick the pastor’s brain for a problem they’ve encountered.

“The problem is that pastors develop a martyr complex and kill themselves for the sake of wants, not needs.”


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I am glad to hear that you are regrouping.

It seems to me, too, that such experiences can, over time, be positive and transformational and lead to greater empathy for our fellow human beings. For instance, I’m reminded of my days in the restaurant industry, when many of the Hispanic persons with whom I worked got up every day in the early hours of the morning, worked eight hours at one restaurant, then walked or biked in all weather to a second full-time job, only to return home around midnight, sleep a few hours, and start the whole process over again. Thus, I’m reminded that, when I feel overworked, there’s a large portion of the human race for which every day feels like that, and that empathy for those who suffer may be a more meaningful outcome than my usual behavior, which is to skulk around feeling grouchy.

Eric Bonetti


I have just experienced burnout in my first six months of ministry.Ordained ministry that is. It has come from a desire to prove myself, possibly a feeling of unworthiness, how could I be so fortunate to have had my call recognised and be provided for and I love my job, I better work hard at it – type of thinking – way too works-righteous really. It is not good when we pastors forget about God’s grace. I experienced physical and spiritual collapse, quite dramatically for a couple of days and general fatigue with feelings of under-confidence and hyper-sensitivity to criticism. My prayer-life became desperate and pleading. it has been exhausting. I am coming through it by developing new patterns for working, resting, allowing time for what energises and with the wise counsel of some supportive mentors, I will learn to live understanding my triggers and safe-guarding my health and well-being. If I am to preach the goal of creation is rest and ours is a delight in God and his shalom, I am learning that this is not something that God, who is good all the time, would deny me. I am healing but I will also live too with the tension that there are aspects of my personality and there is something integral to this calling for me which can all come together to create an atmosphere fostering burnout. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

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