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10 Questions to Assess the Health of a Pastor

By September 20, 2018Church, Leadership

I work with a lot of church leaders. One thing I’ve discovered, if they let me get close enough inside their real world, is that many are hurting. They are facing burnout. They are tired. Many are worn down from carrying the stress of everyone else, yet finding few people they can trust with whom to share their burdens. They face the pressure of dysfunctional leadership and the loneliness of being a leader. (Which I’ve never felt had to be a thing.)

I suspect this can be found in all fields of leadership (and life) and isn’t limited to being a pastor, but my world is usually found around pastors.

I first started writing about this issue early in this decade and now it’s finally – and thankfully – becoming a common topic. And, that is a good thing. We must address pastoral health if we want to encourage healthy churches. The two easily go together.

Recently we stuck our toes in the water of this issue at Leadership Netoek in one of our regular content pieces. The response has been huge.

When I think about this issue I rely on my experience as a leader, but also my counseling degree. And, there are lots of great resources way better than I could provide. But, I at least want to keep pressing the issue.

If I were sitting with a pastor, however, helping to assess the personal health of their soul I would encourage them to answer a few questions:

  • Do you discipline yourself with adequate time to pray, exercise and rest?
  • Would your family say you have adequate time with them; and do you agree?
  • Do you sleep well at night; or do you consistently lose sleep?
  • Are you feel able to accomplish all the church requires of you; or are you consistently overwhelmed?
  • Do you make decisions out of confidence; or are you consistently living with fear, worry, or regret for things you’ve done, want to do, or haven’t done?

If you answered negatively to one of these there may be some minor issues of concern, in my opinion, and you should consider exploring ways to answer more positively. If you have 2 or more negative answers, please consider talking to someone. You may even need to take some intentional steps to being healthier as a pastor.

Still not sure if you are healthy as a pastor?

Answer these questions:

  • Do you have irrational worries or anxiety?
  • Are you having physical problems, such as excessive weight gain, headaches, or muscle tension due to stress or inactivity?
  • Do you frequently have thoughts you are inadequate?
  • Are you more irritable than you would like to be, less patient or do you have a “short-fused” temper?
  • Have you been more impulsive, irrational or felt more scattered with the decisions you make than usual?

Again, one “Yes” answer may be enough for concern, but if you have two or more, I would encourage you to take action for your own well-being.

How did you do?

If you feel you need help, here are 5 simple suggestions:

  • Stop everything for a couple days to fast and pray.
  • Read THIS POST about pastor burnout.
  • Make (and keep) an appointment with a professional therapist.
  • Be honest with a mature friend you trust.
  • Check on the health of your family. (Your stress is most likely having an impact on them.)

Dear Christian leader, this is not a substitute for real help, but I don’t want you to risk your calling or your witness, because you are unhealthy as a leader. You can drown alone or you can get the help you need. My only intent is to encourage you to make a wise choice and get help if you need it. I’m pulling for you.

Have you had times in leadership where you had to get help to keep your sanity? What did you do?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Hi Ron,
    I am not a Christian leader and you're right much of what you write can be attributed to anyone who has a stressful job. I think all you've written can be applied to the everyday man (or women) and it's one reason why I read it. I think your points are dead on and your recommendations are critical to the overall importance of a church leader so that they can continue leading us. Great article. I will re-tweet to as many people as I can. Great job. Thank you.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Good words.

  • In terms of "balance," I tend to think seasons & rhythms. there will never be "balance" in life (equal portions/time of both). but there are rhythms of intense seasons of ministry (which typically means more time and/or mental output). Those intense seasons need to be followed with "selah" moments of rest and relaxation. I also think that ministry leaders need to have a fun, energizing hobby (I'm a motocrosser). And lastly, it's critical that we build a great team so that when we do get away, we have a great team that can cover in our stead and perhaps even do it better than we can!

  • Many of my friends tell me that I am very poor at balancing my home life with my work life. I still struggle at balancing both. I have sacrified my personal time for the sake of my career. (I feel economic compulsions have added fuel to this fire). But, thank God, I have a very well understanding parents and siblings. But, still I working to hard to balance both.

  • My struggle is to rest my mind. I am usually thinking about what is ahead and how much I have to finish.
    It is true what you say about having few that you can talk too. This is why ministry can be lonely. But, God has provided a few friends in my life that I can be real with and this is what keeps me encouraged.
    Also, I've learned to not dump on my wife. It is good to share but not always bring it home, this creates a freedom to enjoy life and each other instead of talking about negative things all the time.
    Great post!

  • I struggle with discipline to rest. I struggle with physical disciplines overall. (rest, exercise, diet etc…)

    I've been in some of these areas before at different times, but glad to see how God has delivered me and molded me.

  • Sovann

    Great blog Ron. I hope it helps many pastors and leaders.
    A few questions I’d add Are you acting out to escape the stress or numb the pain of isolation?
    Are you developing emotionally intimate relationships outside of your marriage?
    Do you feel increasingly inauthentic, that you are losing your sense of self and purpose?

  • @lautsbaugh says:

    I've had times in my life where I needed the help of others to sort out what was going on in my life and ministry. The most recent came when I found myself seeing a counselor about areas in my life that I was feeling the pressure to perform. Ironically, it was during the season of finishing my book on grace, against performance mentality

    Seems that our message is often the thing we need to hear the most too!