Pastoral Burnout

  • Updated March 27, 2023
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Obey Your Thirst

It is the external and internal factors of ministry that plaque and cause church leaders to become spiritually dry. Spiritual dryness is experienced a spiritual lethargy, a lack of vibrant spiritual encounter with God and an absence of spiritual resources. Ellison and Mattila identified emotional exhaustion as contributing to Pastoral burnout through inordinate time demands, unrealistic expectations, sense of inadequacy, fear of failure, loneliness, and spiritual dryness. Büssing et al. designed a Spiritual Dryness scale to show a significant relationship between feelings of spiritual dryness and feelings of emotional exhaustion and burnout. Dr. Evans tells of a cartoon where a receptionist walks in on a pastor on his knees praying with the caption, ‘Oh, good you’re not busy!’ This cartoon captures the common thought concerning a pastor. The pastor is often seen as a spiritual Santa Clause where he’s to bring no coals of discipline, but only plentiful wrapped presents that will tickle the ears. The pastor is not supposed to seek God for guidance and understanding, rather, he is to be available for everybody and be a part of every decision made in the church even when responsibilities are delegated. Baptisms, weddings, baby dedications, home-going services, hospital visits, sermons, discipline, and colors for the choir robes, kitchen, and carpet are only a few tasks for the pastor all before considering his own family or spiritual concerns. For some pastors the pressure is too demanding. As noted by Ostrander et al., pastors face stress and loneliness because of a multiplicity of demands, which negatively impacts them as well as their families and constituencies.

I was asked a question early in my ministry that keeps me in check; ‘Rev[sic] who ministers to the minister?’ This question was given as a practical reminder not to attempt to minister in a vacuum. Yes, the Holy Spirit is given and resides within the believer to lead, guide, and call to our remembrance ‘what saith the LORD.’ Who ministers to the minister is the catalyst of my research. Church leaders know the basic indicators that create stress and loneliness; however, through research, survey, and interview of church leaders’ personal practices, specifically spiritual renewal through spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, a broaden study of burnout. Also, through the discover of what practices may counter unhealthy tendencies may contribute to church leader’s health and wholeness.

Interim Summary

Recent studies that correlate burnout and church leadership lean more toward causal relationship of internal factors than earlier research that promoted external factors with consequential reasons. According to Hills et al., most occupations encounter job-related stress and pressures, however, the internal factors probably play a more substantial role in predicting clergy burnout. Several researchers like Innstrand et al. have argued that internal and external factors play heavily into burnout and any proper study and experience will require investigation of both factors.

What is viable are the studies towards burnout and church leadership and how to refresh and renew those who are committed to minister. A shift in studies has occurred, as research have begun to think more about a remedy for burnout and how to address the ways to mitigate clergy burnout to include research outside of a Western context. Nevertheless, investigation into the causes of clergy burnout is still current.

In the literature review for this paper, the understanding of spiritual formation and renewal through the practices of spiritual disciplines, specifically silence and solitude, are solid means of church leadership negating burnout and a freshness of health and wholeness.

Cite this paper

Pastoral Burnout. (2022, May 12). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/pastoral-burnout/



How do I stop pastor burnout?
1. First, take some time for yourself to recharge and refocus. 2. Second, delegate some of your responsibilities to others in your church community.
What are the signs of pastoral burnout?
The signs of pastoral burnout are often exhaustion and cynicism.
What is church burnout?
Church burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion caused by involvement in church ministry. It is often characterized by a lack of passion for ministry, feelings of isolation, and a sense of being overwhelmed by the demands of ministry.
Why do pastors burn out?
Why do pastors burn out? Overwhelming ministry stress is at the heart of burnout among the clergy. The daily pressures of carrying vast amounts of responsibility, often with inadequate resources, can leave pastors feeling exhausted.
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