Burnout is increasingly prevalent in today’s work-centered culture and ministry is one of the main fields impacted. Pastoral work extends far beyond the typical 40-hour workweek and can take a mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical toll. Pastors spend significant amounts of time meeting the needs of others, without much consideration of their own. One of the most crucial ways to prevent ministry burnout is by finding a strong community to come alongside and support and encourage. Yet, many pastors remain in need of just such a support group.
A study completed by the Lilly Endowment concluded that genuine relationships are one of the top factors in the longevity of a pastor’s ministry. Pastors often take on the vulnerabilities of the congregation. Therefore, it is important to have a support system that can do the same for them. Pastors need relationships that provide them with advice and discernment on their personal life and Christian walk without judgment and with confidentiality.
Relationships Within the Ministry
We can see the importance of relationships for church leaders in Paul’s ministry. Paul kept close confidence with Timothy and Barnabas. He was predominantly Timothy’s mentor, but they had mutual respect for each other that made their friendship thrive. Plus, without Barnabas testifying for Paul’s conversion, Paul may never have had a relationship with Christ’s disciples. (Acts 9:26-30).
More recently, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church discussed community in preventing pastor burnout. In response to a question submitted by a fellow pastor, he advises to “have a couple of soul brothers that you love to hang out with, talk about everything with, and then let them pray for you. Just enjoy them — enjoy God with them, enjoy doing things with them. You need some soul brothers to bear your burdens with you.”
Carey Nieuwhof, Pastor of Connexus Church, recalls methods that helped him avoid pastoral burnout. He advises getting help from friends and lean into them. Ask friends to pray for you and accept any encouragement or advice they can give. They can help carry the burdens you may experience and keep you from sinking into complete ministry burnout.
How Community Can Prevent Ministry Burnout
An article on Pastors.com suggests that one of the best communities for pastors is that of other pastors. By developing friendships with fellow pastors, there is a shared understanding of the burdens ministry brings. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to share ideas and glean wisdom and advice. When ministry burnout starts creeping in, having other pastors to confide in can be a source of reignition.
Nick Kennicott, the pastor of Ephesus Church, advises that a “pastor’s accountability should be with his fellow elders and other pastor friends.” Develop friendships with fellow church leaders and pastors so that you have a trustworthy place to go for wisdom and accountability. Many see pastors as above reproach while simultaneously being upheld to stricter standards than the rest of the congregation. The fact of the matter is that you and all pastors are sinners. You need confidants to whom you may repent when struggling with sin and who will pray with and for you.
Standing Stone Ministry states that the fact that 70 percent of pastors do not have a close friend and is the leading cause of ministry burnout. Do not let yourself become one of these statistics. Also, do not be discouraged or embarrassed to acknowledge your needs. If only 30 percent of pastors have this type of friendship, you are not alone.
Tips For Preventing Ministry Burnout
A supportive community helps prevent burnout. Reach out to pastors from nearby congregations and attend a Bible study as a student, not the leader. Attend a pastoral retreat with fellow church leaders. You will quickly find others in need of a support group. Develop genuine friendships with pastors and other leaders who can support, challenge, and encourage you. Romans 12:4 reminds us that we are better together than when we are alone. Remember, finding a community is not only a suggestion, but a requirement.
Samantha Decker has worked as a content marketer and the church communications director for a local church. Samantha brings both experience and a passion to equip the church by providing resources to help them live out their mission for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus. She’s always up for some (good) coffee, travel, and intentional conversation. Samantha enjoys living in Oklahoma City with her husband, Dustin, and their two sons Eli and Caden.