Battling burnout in a world on fire – Post Bulletin

To say that this is a mental health crisis may be an exaggeration. I don’t want to say that our society is going insane, but I do know that America is shrouded in fear. We live well materially, and advances in technology and medicine continue to roll, but on the inner plane large numbers of our citizens are troubled.

I will not go into factors here as to why this is so and what we should do about it. For now I just want to single out one group of those affected and ask for your prayers.

Did you know an unprecedented number of pastors are considering quitting? Many clergy struggle with burnout. The pastorate has always had a number of challenges: a) There is a stigma to being a “reverend”; b) pastors have dozens or even hundreds of “bosses”; c) there is a weight of leadership; d) to do a good job you have to work many irregular shifts and overtime; e) many things you try just don’t work; etc.

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Being a pastor is not child’s play. I always thought that the pros and cons far outweighed the cons, and I have truly loved and enjoyed my 38 years as a church pastor.

However, lately it has become much more difficult. Three reasons are cited for pastors’ stress and exhaustion: 1) pandemic, 2) politics, and 3) church decline.

The long COVID siege has taken its toll on communities. Closed doors, new protocols, divisions, frequently changing norms and techniques: all this shook community life. Members were dissatisfied, some leaving their church for too much masking and others for not enough. COVID has dragged on for a long time, bringing a unique fatigue to people and systems.

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Added to this is a growing cultural divide over politics. Partisan lines have hardened, and even church members are upset about red versus blue. A pastor cannot please both sides; but unfortunately: no one can please.

Third, the shrinking of the churches cannot be denied. Most churches are getting older and smaller. That too is hard for a pastor.

Well, dear readers. … I hope that you have a very good pastor. I hope you pray for him or her regularly. I hope you encourage your pastor with words and deeds.

The Good Book tells us that this is part of our job. “He that is taught the word shall share all good things with him that teaches.” (Galatians 6:6) “Respect those who work among you and are above you in the Lord, and admonish yourselves, and respect them for their work in Love very much.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) “Let the elders who rule well be worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

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Together we help one another and lift up the cross of Christ to a wounded world.

Chris Brekke is a retired pastor who has ministered at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester for 13 years and at Trinity Lutheran Church in West Concord for 10 years. He and his wife live in Roseville, Minnesota, where he is involved in volunteerism, church and family.

From the Pulpit includes reflections from religious leaders in the region. To contribute, email us at [email protected] with “From the Pulpit” in the subject line.

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