Sunday, July 08, 2007


*No, not me. Please, I've only been a pastor for four years. Thankfully, it is a little early to feel burnt-out yet. I have my days, of course, and times when a particular event/person/situation makes me feel a touch of burnout. But I'm still an optimist about the church and my ministry on most days. I have hope.

But, I've been thinking about burnout. Clergy burnout in particular is something we hear a lot about in the church. New clergy burnout quickly. Young clergy burnout quickly. Female clergy, struggling through a still male-dominated field, have high rates of burnout. I don't have a figure handy, but I remember hearing, for example, that female clergy have an average local church ministry of just eight years. Burnout, and preventing burnout, is serious church business.

I'm thinking of it because of a book I'm reading now (which I'll eventually review). In it, the author talks a lot about burnout, and how to help pastors and parishioners avoid burnout. He talks about traditional expectations of clergy (by parishioners and clergy themselves) that practically guarantee burnout. And I can relate to what he's writing.

But then I was thinking . . . does anyone in the Bible get burnout? Maybe it is a silly question, but I was trying to think of a biblical figure who throws in the towel because of burnout and stress. Maybe Moses comes closest - he seems burnt out sometimes. But burnout seems to be a very modern problem. How can we experience burnout if we are being disciples? I suspect - I fear - that our way of trying to be disciples has gotten so disconnected from Jesus' teaching about discipleship that it makes it possible for us to experience burnout. We're spinning our wheels, and somehow, still, with all our work and busy-ness, we're still missing the mark when it comes to discipleship, still living lives that are very disconnected from what Jesus had in mind for us when he talked about "abundant life."

What do you think?

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