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?