Four Leadership Principles to Avoid Burnout

Another friend, another brother in Christ, another pastor stepped out of ministry just this week.

My heart grieves as I understand how pastorate is one of the loneliest professions. There’s guilt, shame, and regret in leaving the flock that they were entrusted with.

Pastors today have a lot on their plates and the stresses of leadership, burnout, and moral failures are all too real. Research has shown few alarming and staggering number:

  • 28 percent of ministers report being “forcefully terminated.”
  • 33 percent say being in ministry is “an outright hazard” to their families.
  • 75 percent experienced “severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation” during their careers.
  • Ministers join doctors and attorneys among those with the highest rates of addiction and suicide.

I have heard comments over and over again and again,

“I just can’t do this any longer. Something has to change.”

“Does it even matter what or how I’m doing this work? It only seems an upward battle.”

“I wish I could just retire tomorrow and find rest and peace. I’m just tired.”

As a result? Families try to escape the stressful environment by going on vacation by trying to avoid people.

However, very seldom do we amid stressful relationships and undaunting demands get to escape to the peaceful mountains or tranquil sea on vacation time. Even on vacation with family, pastors still live in the middle of the noise, rushing activity, turbulence, chaos, with things crashing down all around them.

So, what should pastors do? Continue till the system breaks down? Continue to the point of retirement or resignation where they are physically and emotionally exhausted and feel numbed?

Here are four leadership principles I have learned to practice the rhythm to avoid pastoral burnout.


1. Divert Daily   

Spend each day 15 to 20 minutes to plan out the day that will be taking place.

This does not mean you negate or replace your quiet personal time with the Lord that is there!

Most pastors have gone to Bible college and seminary and know the importance of spending regular quiet time in His Word and prayer each day. The problem is when burning out hits, church leaders often neglect first the spiritual disciplines and move on to another task.

Martin Luther said it well, “I have so much to do today I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

Has your daily quiet time become a duty you grudging do regularly? Have you found delight in seeking the face of your Savior by lavishing and soaking His Word?

Pray first before you divert daily, “Lord, I pray you to grant me a heart that seeks you above all else.” (Ps 20:4).


2. Withdraw Weekends

Spend each weekend 2 to 4 hours away planning the weeks ahead.

As you also withdraw from your work environment, remember to have some hobbies you enjoy doing. Whether that will be going on hiking, weightlifting, or golfing that is healthy for your body and your brain.

Pastors go into church ministry because they were called into that role by God. However, not all the task fuels them and gives life to their soul. There is task depending on situations sucks the life out of them.

As you withdraw, find the rhythm by doing something else! Change it up a bit.


3. Quarantine Quarterly  

Each quarter of the year set aside time praying and planning out how the coming months will look on the calendar.

This can take place by escaping the busyness of ministry by simply just going somewhere else! Have a renewed perspective of your situation.

Sometimes because of pastors trying to solve all the problems they can solve, taking all the grief they can take, and refereed all the fights they could referee and their souls are simply drained.

Maybe go visit a healthy church and see how things are done at that church. Not all churches are unhealthy and plateauing in a toxic environment.

Take a deep breath and be refreshed by seeing God’s faithfulness being played in other churches!


4. Abandon Annually  

Set aside time away from where you can get away for a week. Perhaps, gather with a good friend to get together for a “study week” to bounce ideas off of each other.

Why friends? For you and I know we need someone in our lives to talk about stuff. In a ministry setting, we are not able to talk about all confidential matters by the nature of the destructive nature of sin and we are not able to share all matters with our spouses.

The recommendation will be to have 2 to 3 friends in the ministry whom you trust and who doesn’t live in your town. Ideally, these will be pastor friends of church leaders who will understand the weight of being a ministerial staff position.

This could be a time of recreation and resets of annual goals that you have set forth with your personal goals and family goals.


What other leadership principles have you learned to avoid pastoral burnout? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and input.



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