Staying in Ministry May Be Harder Than You Think

Working in ministry can be the most fulfilling and challenging thing that someone can do with his or her life. Every year thousands of people answer the call to be a full-time minister, yet all too often, they find themselves struggling with burnout and considering a career change. There are a few steps that can help ministry leaders avoid this crisis.

The Association of Theological Schools reports that there are 267 institutions in their association and that in 2013 there were 73,005 theological and seminary students.1 Despite their eagerness to enter the ministry, research shows 80% of seminary graduates exit again within 5 years.2 The challenges of ministry result in 1500 pastors leaving the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.2 It is because of these difficulties that 80% of pastors feel discouraged and unqualified in their role.2

According to a study conducted by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir,2 being a pastor is difficult work — as shown by the following statistics:

  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly or even daily basis.
  • 77% of the pastors surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage.
  • 75% of the pastors surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.

This doesn’t have to be your story!  

Despite these facts, serving as a pastor or ministry leader can be a wonderful experience of seeing God work and lives transformed. Even if your experience does not reflect the statistics above, taking preventative steps to ensure you remain healthy is wise.

Here are a few steps that you can take to prepare for these challenges and avoid burnout:

  • Prepare in advance for the functional and administrative demands of ministry. According to Becky R. McMillian,3 typical ministers spend 36 hours of their week related to organizational tasks. With such a large part of a pastor’s job being administration, it is important to find methods to improve effectiveness, delegate, and identify effective systems. (For more on this, read The Seminary Gap.)
  • Establish a rhythm of accountability. Accountability requires relationship, transparency, and honesty. You are not going to do this with just anyone. The challenges and responsibility that comes with being a pastor necessitate accountability. Having someone who loves you look you in the eye, ask you hard questions, and provide direction will help you avoid potential pitfalls.
  • Connect with other in similar roles. In addition to needing accountability, leaders need a peer group. The challenges and opportunities that you face in ministry are unique to your role. Having a group of peers that serve in a similar capacity and understand the nuances and subtleties of your ministry will provide much-needed connection and support.
  • Find a healthy balance of ministry and personal life. Those of us who are called into full-time ministry often have difficulty finding a healthy balance between our work and personal lives. This is a fast track to burnout. When our life is out of balance, self-care is neglected and family strife creeps in.

If you are interested in joining with a community of leaders that tackles these issues, click here to find your Tribe.*

*A Tribe is a group of peers serving in similar ministry capacities at similar-sized churches, journeying together

What ways are you address the unique challenges that come with ministry?  What steps are you taking to prevent burnout? 

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Steve Caton

Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Sammy Moore — 08/22/14 5:20 am

Psalm 94:19. I never noticed that! Thanks!

Kirsten, Reiner — 08/21/14 8:18 am

Reading this article I am wondering how 'fatigue' Pastors interpret 2. Corr 1: 4-5 The words written by Paul aren't written for either Pastors or Christians but surely for all of us who are struggling daily in our Christian walk And Eccl 10-11, as support for Ps 94:19, surely gives us all encouragement that suffering is a privilege for being followers of Christ

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comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
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