How Can You Avoid Pastoral Burnout?

Bonfire burning

Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Empathy fatigue, spiritual burnout, physical exhaustion, and emotional depletion happen frequently to those in ministry. There are unique challenges in pastoral ministry that are unlike anything in any other vocation. When you truly care for others and want to serve faithfully, you can push yourself to the point of utter exhaustion. You still have ministry responsibilities, but you have no energy, no vision, and no strength to continue. Even after resting you still feel exhausted.

So, how can you avoid pastoral burnout?

Let’s use the acrostic S.T.A.Y.

The “S” stands for saturate.

Saturate your mind in Scripture. We burn out when we try to do ministry while neglecting our time in Scripture. To stay focused on the Lord, I must have my mind in Scripture and on Scripture.

The “T” stands for take care of yourself.

We burn out when we take care of everyone else but neglect to take care of ourselves. Because we are made up of body, soul, and spirit, neglect in one area of our lives tends to affect the other areas as well.

  • Physically – We need exercise and healthy eating habits.
  • Emotionally – We need to take a regular day off and take an annual vacation.
  • Spiritually – We need to get connected in biblical community. The one-anothering commands are carried out best in this context,

The “A” stands for appropriate my position in Christ.

We burn out when we try to do ministry out of our own resources rather than the resources of the indwelling Christ. Here’s a statement that reminds us of our true identity:

“Because of Christ’s redemption, I am a new creation of great worth. I am deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing to the Father, totally accepted by God, and absolutely complete in Christ.”

Nothing that happens to you or me can change the truth of this statement. We make foolish decisions when we look for acceptance and affirmation from others instead of resting in our full acceptance in Christ. All the love and acceptance I need, I already have in Christ. Ministry should flow from my conscious awareness of being deeply loved and totally accepted in Christ.

The “Y” stands for yield to Him.

We burn out when we fail to recognize God’s control over every situation we face. God is in control. He is far more in control than we imagine. As His servant, I can say with confidence, “God You are in control of this situation. I want your will to be done. I want your plan, your purpose, your agenda, and not my own. Whatever is going on in my life today, I can pray with confidence.  Please give me Your wisdom, Your strength, and Your peace. Help me to surrender to Your purposes and bring you honor and glory through this.”

Pastor, you are not alone. If you are struggling with ministry fatigue or feel on the edge of burnout, reach out to us. This is a safe place to work through the challenges of ministry.

About Robert White

Dr. Robert White was raised in central Florida and completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida. After college, he completed the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. For more than 40 years he has served as pastor of churches in Florida and in Massachusetts. He served as adjunct professor at the Orlando Extension Center of Luther Rice Seminary, teaching Bible and Theology for 15 years. He taught classes for the certificate program of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served on the New Work Council of the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and the Pastor Support Team of the Ridge Baptist Association. In October 2016, Dr. White joined the counseling staff of Care For Pastors. He currently resides with his wife, Kaye, in Davenport, Florida.

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