Twenty-four hours after a snowstorm in Teays Valley, WV, I walked out to the highway to pick up the Saturday morning Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper, the largest in the state.
Back at the kitchen table and a cup of hot chocolate, I opened the paper to a well-written story by Ron Orozco of McClatchy Newspapers, “Churches confront issue of ‘clergy burnout’.”
Orozco’s thought-provoking story centered around Fresno, CA, one of my favorite areas in the United States.
There are negatives, but many positives as well. I do not know of anything burning out that was not at one time on fire and burning brightly. I will consider those of the clergy family.
Clergypersons are the spiritual leaders, ministers, preachers, teachers and shepherds. Paul wrote to the faithful in Ephesus, “And He gave some apostles . . . and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). The Bible also refers to them as “Ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20).
To “burn out” means, we can safely assume, that something or a person was once on fire.
A man or woman senses their “call to the ministry” with the deep conviction that this “is what God wants me to do.” After some years of preparation, whether it be little or as it is more often in our day, involving a bachelor’s degree and then a graduate degree of 45-90 semester hours of graduate study — the day of ordination may arrive.
How does this person of such tremendous possibilities “flameout” or “burnout” after years in the ministry? If I were the speaker for a pastor’s conference or seminar for professional and business leaders, as I have been many times, here are a few things I would emphasize to prevent “burnout”.
1. They may have heard too many sermons on the piety of “wearing out and not rusting out” in God’s work. Sounds good, but may be a little on the stupid side of ministry.
2. Married clergy members who become distracted by those of the opposite sex are headed for disaster.
3. Successful clergy persons, like many narcissistic athletes and politicians, read too many of their own headlines.
4. They want to do things Jesus did not do. They want to be present before they are even called. Always being on the job 24-7 does not convey much more than an abundance of ignorance.
5. Churches and pastors should see to it that the pastor eats, sleeps, exercises, reads, studies, relaxes as is becoming to healthy and spiritual people. How about a “weigh-in” each month for the pastor? Deduct five dollars from the weekly check for every pound he is overweight?
6. Churches should be aware that it is much less expensive to keep a pastor healthy and functioning positively and successfully than it is to go through a church and leadership wreck. “Humpty Dumpty” falls are often beyond repair. All the superintendents and bishops cannot put it back together again.
7. Churches should make certain that pastors are on complete vacation with their families at least six weeks of each year. If a pastor’s parents are living, send him home to Mom and Dad twice each year no matter how far away they live. A week with parents helps the “greatest preacher” among us get his feet back on the ground. He is still a little boy trying to grow up in their house. Putting your feet three times a day under Mom’s table will do more than visiting the counselor’s office or the psychiatrist’s couch.
Samuel Butler defined a clergyman as “A human Sunday.” A clergyman is also a human Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Pastors are human and they need lots of help from other humans so all can succeed and be faithful to the very end.