Golly, when I was having my burnout crisis last week, I didn’t know there would be a lot of hoopla about burnout coming out in the news.
I can identify with what’s being said: People expect “entertainment;” They want the pastor to be a specialist in all things; They want numerical growth over spiritual growth; They don’t want to be asked questions that require thinking, just simple answers like, “God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, pray about it.”
Anne Dilenscheider, in her article in the Huffington Post, talks about Pastoral Soul Care – and how the lack thereof is the root cause of burnout.
However, I think the truth comes in her observation: “… Pastors who are effective and get things done are considered “successful.” Denominations, including the United Methodist Church, focus on results that can be measured, e.g., increased membership and the congregation’s financial well-being. Yet numerous studies over the past twenty years reveal that this approach is, literally, killing clergy and, by extension, churches and denominations.”
And appropriately, Ms. Dilenscheider lists that as the primary cause of pastors flaming out and dropping out of ministry.
I concur. I try to be very diligent when it comes to taking care of my soul. I sometimes wish I was as diligent when it comes to my marriage. But even with the spiritual disciplines I practice, my recent pastoral evaluation tells a different story.
I am one of those deemed to be “Faithful, Fruitful and Effective in Ministry.” But it comes at a cost. Not only am I being evaluated as to my effectiveness by the Church-I-Serve, but I am also appraised by the denominational-powers-that-be. How many members did I confirm/affirm on Confession of Faith? How many were baptized? What’s the average number in the main worship setting? How can your success in ministry be measured?
OK. What about the conversations I’ve had with a woman with bi-polar illness who is honestly looking, but can’t seem to find God? Or about the man who can’t find a job in our economically depressed area? Or about the young woman who is zombie-walking through life because she was abducted and raped a week ago? Or the mentally- and physically-ill grandmother who’s left to care for her two out-of-control young grandsons because their mom is a crackhead and their dad is in jail for threatening his live-in girlfriend. Grandma can’t even take care of herself.
Measure my effectiveness. Measure my fruitfulness. You can’t measure my faithfulness.
Burnout? You betcha! And it’s not an issue of boundaries and soul care.