By Joe Wright
Exec. Dir., Bivocational & Small Church Leadership Network
Burnout has long been a problem for pastors, especially for pastors of smaller-attendance churches and those who are bivocational. The pandemic has only exacerbated this problem. Many pastors have experienced “decision fatigue” due to the need to make a decision early in the week but then having to change that decision later in the week. The resultant confusion within the congregation as well as criticism of leadership has a cumulative effect on pastors.
If this stressful environment were short-lived, most pastors would have been able to shrug off the stress. A pandemic that lasts over two years is another story. This kind of long lasting stress and critical attitudes by some congregations has left pastors feeling totally burned out and beginning to think of stepping away from ministry.
Couple these stresses with those churches who choose to take advantage of uncertain times to make drastic changes in church leadership and you are left with a minister who often feels some level of internal persecution. So, whether it is the external pressures of an uncertain world or the uncertain expectations of a questioning congregation, many pastors are feeling pressures within their ministries they may never have experienced before.
Observations for churches and leaders:
- Be aware of the toll of stress on their leaders and return to a state of prayerful support and encouragement (I Timothy 2:1-2).
- Explore the possibility of a sabbatical instead of a vacation for your pastor.
- Communicate both within the leadership as well as within the congregation to offset a lack of information. Baptists hate to be surprised!
- Be aware that before COVID-19, many members were already unengaged with the ministry of the church, and it is these members mostly who have not come back. Churches need to cease treating those absent members, being only marginal to start with, as their focus. Recognize them for what they are, unchurched! Those outside the church are the focus of the work of the church and we must seek to lead them to Christ.
- The pandemic has left our world with a culture that is trying to reconnect with the hearts of people. There has never been a better time for the church to offer the simple love of Christ and fellowship of believers to a lost and dying world. We must begin to learn again the easy habit of inviting those we love and come into contact with to join us on our pew to worship a God who loves us without limits. The time has come that all church members should be reminded that it is their opportunity to bring someone to Christ and to His church.