Burnout

November 8, 2011

This might or might not have much application for my readers. It’s from Resurgence. What caught my eye was the very first line: “My counselor shared a statistic with me two years ago that floored me – 90% of the people entering ministry do not retire from ministry. They either quit or have some sort of moral/ethical failure that disqualifies them.” Since burnout is something than anybody can struggle with, I thought I’d post it. In my view, most of the time people are struggling with burnout to one degree or another.

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My counselor shared a statistic with me two years ago that floored me – 90% of the people entering ministry do not retire from ministry. They either quit or have some sort of moral/ethical failure that disqualifies them.

Jesus did not call us to this or wants this for our lives. Yet so many of us church leaders struggle in this area (usually inwardly because if we said out loud that we are dying inside, people might perceive us as weak).

Here are 10 signs you are near a burnout and/or meltdown:

  1. You are beginning to despise people and your compassion for them is continually decreasing rather than increasing.
  2. You often think about doing something other than ministry and your biggest desire isn’t to honor God and reach people, but to simply find relief from the pressure that seems to be building daily inside you.
  3. You cannot remember the last time you simply had fun with family and friends and joy is something you talk about, but are not experiencing for yourself.
  4. You are disconnected at home and when you get there, you do not want to engage with your spouse or your children; you cannot enjoy being around them. You spend more time online than you do with your family and you find yourself wanting to sleep all of the time.
  5. You continually tell yourself and those you love that “this is just a really busy season and that you will slow down soon.” However, the truth is that you have been most likely “singing that same song” for years!
  6. You are continually becoming obsessed with what others say about you and one negative comment from someone who does not like you can put you in an incredibly deep valley and cause you to feel hopeless.
  7. You begin to make easy decisions rather than the right ones, because the right ones take too much work.
  8. There is no hope in you and you actually despair of life. You have thought of death and have even entertained suicidal thoughts.
  9. You are experiencing unexplained depression and/or anxiety. You are having panic attacks and can’t explain it.
  10. You are increasingly becoming withdrawn from family and friends.

That’s right, my life!

“How did you come up with this list?” you ask. It’s quite simple, I went back to December 2007 until January of this past year and listed out the qualities that were the most prominent in my own life. That’s right, my life! I went through a trial of intense depression and anxiety during that time period and the best way I can describe my life would be “dark.”

God called us to do a lot of things for him, but he did not call us to burn out, disqualify ourselves, or drop out.

However, through swallowing my pride and asking for help, the support of an incredible wife, the support of great friends, seeking out an incredible counselor, and the unbelievable mercy of God, I broke free from my darkness this past January. Oh sure, I still struggle with it more often than I wish I would, but I cannot tell you the incredible feelings of freedom and joy I’ve had since January that I haven’t had in years!

God called us to do a lot of things for him, but he did not call us to burn out, disqualify ourselves, or drop out. I want what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7 to be true of all of us – I want us to finish well!

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8 Responses to “Burnout”


  1. I am semi-retired at my age, but due mostly to being here for my wife, who has chronic COPD. But because of this, I have also found myself more involved in hospital chaplain ministry. But, in some real sense one does not retire from pastoral ministry, unless there is a physical reason. But at 62, we do slow down, i.e. the body! I too have had a back surgery, but still run everyday. So we all must tread lighty here, for Christian ministry (ordained or not) is for the most part mental and certainly spiritual!

  2. Mark Says:

    If you run everyday, you must be in good shape! I do understand the idea of slowing down. People tell me that age is all in one’s mind. The older I get the less I believe that. I also agree that “one does not retire from pastoral ministry.” Once a shepherd, always a shepherd. There will always be sheep that need tending.


    • Mark,

      Yeah I am always that Royal Marine! Running was a way of life in those days, and it sort of stuck. But yeah age does slow one down for sure. I would say after 60 things got a bit slower for me! 😉 But I do press it some still, young at heart perhaps? But old and conventional in theology and social aspects. I am always a “conservative”!

  3. Mark Says:

    Running seems to be a good thing that stuck. Usually the things that I’ve hung onto from my younger days have been detrimental, not positive. I might be young at heart but over all the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.


    • I went to Gulf War 1 in my 40’s, so the whole military and RMC’s.. Royal Marine Commando thing is totally ingrained still in my mind and discipline. But hey we were those Spl. Op’s guys. Even in Gulf War 1 our missions were very deep into the enemies backyard. Indeed discipline is a missing link often in today’s Christian lives and ministry, both British and American.

  4. Mark Says:

    Spiritual disciplines, in many ways, are coming back into focus in the evangelical church. In fact, it almost seems to be a fad. It always seems like the pendulum is moving from one extreme to another.

  5. Mark Says:

    Obviously, I’m all for the disciplines mentioned in the Word.


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