One of the largest issue facing pastors of today is the problem of ministry burnout.
Because pastors are often expected to perform multiple roles within the church, many become seriously overwhelmed and discouraged. The New York Times reports that 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations. A shocking 75% reported severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
Such findings have surfaced with foreboding consistency over the past several years. Many pastors 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.
Clearly, burnout is a very serious, debilitating problem. But where, exactly, does this issue stem?
Bestselling author and Pastor Rick Warren says faulty thinking is at the heart of burnout, because thinking controls emotions, which in turn, control actions. In a recent blog post on pastors.com, Warren reveals the four "most threatening internal causes of burnout in ministry:"
1. We focus on our feelings rather than the facts.
Warren writes that emotional reasoning is particularly dangerous because it says "If I feel it, it must be so." However, he warns that feelings are not always facts-feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and inadequacy are rooted in emotion-not truth.
2. We compare ourselves to others.
One of the greatest dangers of being emotionally drained is the temptation to compare oneself-something the Bible often warns against--for everyone is different and unique. Comparison, Warren warns, directly leads to emotional burnout.
"When we get to heaven, God is not going to ask why you weren't more like you get to heaven, God is not going to say, "How come you weren't more like Billy Graham?" or "How come you weren't more like Moses?" or "How come you weren't more like...?" He's really going to say, "How come you weren't more like you?"
3. We blame ourselves for things that aren't our fault.
Warren says that when people are feeling emotionally low, they tend to blame themselves for all the world's problems. Thus, in any kind of helping profession, individuals often discover that others do not respond the appropriate or intended way.
"You can influence people but you cannot control them," he writes. "Yet we tend to blame ourselves when others make choices we don't approve of or don't understand."
4. We exaggerate the negative.
For his final point, Warren emphasizes the importance of keeping a positive outlook.
"Have you noticed the fact that when you're discouraged, everything seems to be wrong? When your life becomes filled with fear and resentment and low self-esteem and anger and loneliness and worry, you're headed for burnout. Then, if you focus on your feelings, and you compare yourself to others, and you accept responsibility for everybody else, and you exaggerate the negative, you're only going to make matters worse," he concludes.
Warren says that next week, he will reveal how to overcome dangerous emotions and prevent burnout.