Show Notes:

Burnout Statistics


According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010) “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

  • 13% of active pastors are divorced.
  • 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
  • 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
  • 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.

Burnout is so common that over half of us would leave the ministry if we felt there was something else we could do.

You’re not alone. This is something we all struggle with.

Tim’s Burnout Story

External forces

• Took a job at a church with past problems ignoring red flags believing that he would be able to overcome those things.
• At first everything is great, but ultimately deep set problems resurface because the problems and problem people are still there.
• We sometimes convince ourselves that these aren’t unique or extraordinary issues but just common ministry things.

Internal forces

• Tim defined himself by a set of inaccurate metrics
• His identity revolved around the fact that he was a vocational minister and when his circumstance made it impossible for him to be successful it is a personal attack on his identity and self-worth
• This sends him into a hopeless and depressed state.

Rocky’s Burnout Story

• Rocky had wonderful ministry experiences but unreasonable expectations of his church and leadership
• When his expectations are not met, he begins to try and fix and order the world around him which is impossible to do.
• This leads to his anxiety (a condition which he has had his entire life) to get out of control.
• Daily Panic attacks begin to rue his life.

How They Got Help

• Ultimately both receive outside help from counselors and therapists.
• Tim learns to find his value and identity not from ministry but from things that are more true to his character.
• Rocky learns to cope with his anxiety, and to let go of unreasonable expectations

Final Thoughts

• Burnout is a common ministry experience
• If you are going to be healthy and get through it, you must ask for help
• The help is out there, it exists and is available to anyone who needs it.
• You are not a failure if you must step away from a ministry.

Photo by theilr / CC BY

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