I want to quit, but I don’t know how to do anything else and, with the stigma attached to being a “former minister”, I wonder if anyone will hire me for anything at all. Frustrating! – Respondent #6
Dear Burned Out Pastor,
Thank you for participating in our survey. I am burdened by your struggle. You have been a senior pastor for 16 years. That is an incredible accomplishment. You state that you have no concern about losing your job. This tells me that your congregation probably loves you and that you are doing great work. I am grateful for your ministry.
But the rest of your responses in the survey cause me significant concern. You said that your work is characterized by intense pressure, and that no matter what you do, things just do not seem to get better. You frequently experience conflicting demands and no longer have time for your family and personal needs. You feel isolated and emotionally drained. Your health has faded.
You are tired of trying.
You want to quit.
I wish that I could write some incredibly inspiring words that immediately removes all exhaustion, loneliness, and frustration. But my words are just not that good. Your experience is real, and is, unfortunately, shared by many pastors. Recovery often takes time.
Here are some steps that I recommend. It is my hope that others will join me in encouraging you and making suggestions for some next steps.
First, tell somebody. Make sure that you are not walking through this alone. You may not feel comfortable telling anyone on your staff or your church right now. You will need to do that, but not immediately. Tell your wife. Let her be the support mechanism in your life that she was meant to be. Tell another senior pastor. You will be surprised at how much they can relate to your experience. Commit to praying for one another as you walk through this.
Second, talk to two key church leaders, one staff, one layperson. Make sure that you pick ones that have always been supportive of you. You are going to need to make some changes or, at least, take a break from some responsibilities. Let them suggest some next steps for you.
Third, take those next steps. Let your leaders be advocates for you. Don’t unnecessarily sacrifice your love for the ministry. Your church needs a pastor who is passionate about shepherding, not considering quitting. Take a break from some of your current responsibilities. Mobilize others to take on those responsibilities. You might find that others enjoy some of the tasks that burden you. You might find that you can accomplish more ministry through others.
As you walk through this, I will commit to praying for you. I know others will as well.