On last Sunday, my husband had the privilege to celebrate 26 years as the Senior Pastor of our church, Second Baptist Church of Olathe. As we were preparing for the festivities, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever celebrate 26 years at any job? These days it is sometimes rare for individuals to stay with a company for over 10 years. As I do every year, I asked my husband what his plans are for the next year and how long he plans to continue being a pastor. He always answers the same way, “When, the Lord says it is time for me to move on.”
The 26th celebration was a success. We felt appreciated and heard others say some really nice, kind things about us, and we received some fabulous gifts and we were blessed financially. October happens to be clergy appreciation month and also the month our church celebrates my husband’s years of service to our local congregation. We are thankful for the one time a year that we really feel appreciated. We look forward to every October because it gives my husband a boost to continue to serve another year.
Being a pastor’s wife, I see many of the struggles that my husband endures week after week. There is always something going on at the church, couples are getting married, individuals get sick and are hospitalized or in the nursing home, individuals get into legal trouble, families are falling apart, individuals die, and people are struggling emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I don’t know how he does it week after week.
Several years ago I stumbled upon a book entitled: Your Pastor is an Endangered Species, written by H.B. London, Jr and Neil B. Wiseman. The authors discuss the difficulties and struggles pastor’s face, which sometimes lead them to leave the ministry. After all, a Pastor’s life can consist of 55 to 75 hours a week, and being on call 24/7 and sometimes being bi-vocational or multi-vocational. I also found the website pastorburnout.com which lists some interesting statistics regarding pastors and their families. As a pastor’s wife, many of these statistics did not surprise me, but they may be a wakeup call to the local church. Here are just a few:
· 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
· 33% say that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
· 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
· 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they need to take a leave of absence from ministry.
· 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Wow, I thought after reading those stats. Because our pastors are the pillars of our communities, we must do everything possible to help them to survive and thrive. Here are 4 ways to keep your pastor from experiencing burnout.
1. Pray for him daily. Regular prayer time and devotion means that you are connected to God and can pray for yourself and your family members. While you are praying for you and your family, always mention your pastor by name and pray for the pastoral family. When church members have a strong prayer life, it always makes the pastor’s job easier. The pastor is not the only one who can get a prayer through. You don’t know how much it means to a pastoral family to hear their names included in your personal and corporate prayers.
2. Make sure your pastor takes at least 6-8 weeks of vacation annually. Think about it, there are 52 Sundays in a year. I have been on my job only 15 years, and I get almost ten weeks. Pastors should be able to be out on vacation a minimum of 6 Sundays per year. Not only should he/she get vacation days, but also wellness days, sort of like sick leave. Pastors should also be allowed to bring in guest ministers or use associate minister’s to preach at least every 8 weeks. Pastor’s need to be ministered to by hearing others preach. The ultimate gift of encouragement, would be at least a 30 day sabbatical leave to refresh and renew. Note: when the pastor is out, it is also a good idea for members to show up so he/she doesn’t feel guilty about taking time off.
3. Encourage your pastor to take care of themselves physically. A few years ago we were in an installation service for a new pastor and wise, elderly pastor made the following comment. “Son, don’t dig your grave with your teeth.” That statement has stuck with me over the years. Members are quick to feed the Pastor. I now that pastor’s appreciate the cooking skills of their members, but don’t attempt to feed the Pastor and family too many things that are unhealthy for them. Purchase a gym membership for the pastor and family and encourage them to stay physically fit.
4. Respect the Pastor’s family time. Time with family is crucial for pastors to relax and rejuvenate and care for their family’s emotional needs. Pastors more than anyone understand the types of emergencies and crises that can come up on any given day. However, dinner time or Friday and Saturday nights may not be the best time to call the pastor about something that can wait until Sunday. Respect the Pastor’s home by leaving messages on his office phone rather than his cell or home phone. Buy a gift certificate for the pastor and wife to enjoy an evening on the town or go to a movie. Encourage a get-away for the pastor and spouse
These are just a few things you can do to be a blessing to your pastor. Lastly, take the time to say “thank you”, “I love you”, and “I really appreciated your sermon today”. Tell him/her in person or send a note. These statements go a long way to keep your pastor from burning out.
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach