7 Responses to Prevent Pastor Burnout

In my recent blog post, I noted seven reasons pastors burn out. I was delighted to receive a full response to my post from Lee Haley, executive pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I offer his response in full below:

With over 40 years in the ministry, nearly 15 in an itinerant ministry, I have seen the challenges of many pastors who burn out. I offer the following seven responses for churches to consider:

1. 24/7 mentality. In single-pastor churches, have deacons (or their equivalent), share the ministry load. In multi-staff churches, make sure pastors rotate this responsibility. Pastors should have one weekday off during every week. Typically that day is either Friday or Monday.

2. Conflict. Have a written conflict policy and utilize it. Peacemaker Ministries is a great resource.

3. Expectations. Have a clearly written job description. Have quarterly status meetings between the pastor and church leadership. Assure the pastor the church is supporting him. Take your pastor to lunch, get to know him and listen. Did I mention listen?

4. Unwillingness to let go. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the pastor. This exercise should be established at the beginning of the pastorate. If it was not, make it a priority and begin the process at once. Positive interaction between church leadership and the pastor is vital.

5. No friends. The best friend a pastor may have is a church member who loves unconditionally, listens, and does not betray confidences. Some make friends easier than others. Encourage your pastor to develop friendships. Make sure he has time to develop and maintain them.

6. Not suited for some tasks. Churches must have a clear understanding of their pastors' strengths and weaknesses. Tools such as DISC, Predictive Index, and Spiritual Gift assessments should be requirements. Church staffs should be built to balance spiritual gifts, personality types, and skill sets. Pastoral assignments should be based more on skill sets and less on job titles. In single-staff churches, members should assist the pastor in his area of need.

7. No life outside the church. Churches should provide for vacation time, insist that pastors utilize their time off, and provide sufficient resources for the pastor to get away. Churches should develop a paid sabbatical leave policy. There are things about the pastoral ministry that are unique to it and only a few other professions. The work of pastoral ministry is 24/7 and consumes the vast majority of a pastor's life. It is his work, it is his play, it determines many of his friendships and, as such, it never stops. Sabbaticals are an important way pastors can remain effective.

Plus one: Support your pastor's wife. If a pastor is burning out at church, you can be assured his home life is suffering. Treat your pastor's wife with the highest level of respect. Respect her time with her husband and family. Design times of refuge, rest, and relaxation for her. Ladies should take her to lunch and listen. If your pastor's wife has a well-balanced life, it will go a long way toward the balanced life your pastor deserves.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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