It’s hard being a pastor. I know that there are many jobs out there that are difficult (doctors, nurses, policemen and women, I know you’re out there). But I think the job of a pastor has a unique toll on the pastor and his family. Jennifer LaClaire says it best in her article “Why are So Many Pastors Committing Suicide?”
There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend.
Other statistics are
as follows (These and more you can find here):
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure
13% of active pastors are divorced
45% of pastors say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
As I read these statistics I had to take inventory of my own life. Do I face some of these things? Am I burning the candle at both ends? Am I placing being a pastor in front of my family?
I’ve been a pastor for almost 10 years now. One of the things that I have noticed the most about being a pastor is that pastors tend to be looked at as people who have it all together. There isn’t much room for a pastor to make a mistake or a misstep. Frequently a pastor is unable to share the current struggles in his or her life because of this unspoken rule. We can share missteps and mistakes that we have overcome in the past, but not current struggles.
In an article at Crosswalk.com, the author makes the important connection between expectations, depression, and suicide:
Paul Tripp has written about the problem of pastoral depression as well. He notes that unrealistic expectations, tension at home, fearing man more than God, and pursuing personal glory more than God are four reasons pastors typically burn out and become depressed. “Churches forget that they’ve called a person who’s a man in the midst of his own sanctification,” he writes. “This tends to drive the pastor into hiding, afraid to confess what’s true of him and everyone to whom he ministers. There’s a direct connection between unrealistic expectations and deepening cycles of disappointment.”
So what can be done? Here are three suggestions if you’re not a pastor and you want to help your pastor out:
Pray For Your Pastor
Your pastor is subject to the same struggles and temptations you are. They are just as human as you are. They hurt when people speak unkindly to them, they aren’t made with as thick of skin as you believe them to have. They have family problems, they need prayer. And when you pray for them, pray often and let them know that you are praying for them.
Support Your Pastor
There are a lot of times when it seems as if everyone is against your pastor. When the board doesn’t like their suggestions or ideas, when people are upset with the sermons they are preaching, when the pastor isn’t available when the church member needs them. Find ways to support the pastor even through the conflict. Many pastors are so worried about their jobs they try to please as many people as possible and end up killing their original calling from God.
Kill Behind-the-Back Criticism
This one is a big one that hurts pastors. Many times in my ministry I have heard about people criticizing me to others without every talking with me about their concern. I have always loved hearing about church members who have made the choice to tell these people to either talk with me directly or knock off the criticism behind my back. When criticism starts making its rounds behind the back of your pastor, they don’t know who to trust. Kill it when it starts.
Your pastor will thank you, your pastor will thrive, and your pastor will desire to lead. Tune in next week when I tackle, “It’s Tough Being a Church Member.”