I am fed up.
According to an extensive Barna research study of 14,000 U.S. lead pastors, published in January 2017, 37% of lead pastors are at medium to high risk of burnout. 43% are at medium to high relational risk with their spouses. A whopping 66% say they have no deep friendships. 40% are not energized by ministry work. Expastor.com reports 47% of pastors suffer from depression.
One of the key contributors to this mess? Overscheduling, overcommitting, and rest-deprivation among pastors. Workaholism continues to be tolerated, and in many circles, celebrated. I am fed up. And I want you to be fed up too.
I’ve heard almost every excuse in the book regarding why pastors ignore the need for regular rest, refreshing and recharging: Here are six of the most common reasons pastors give for disregarding the clear command of Scripture to rest:
I love what I do
If you love what you do, you’re at more risk than most of ignoring your need of regular rest. You’ll tend to overestimate how much emotional fuel is in your tank. When you do what you love, you tend to feel energized, exhilarated, and fulfilled. You can work for long stretches without feeling tired. The danger is these positive outcomes can mask our need to catch our breath. Good outcomes don’t exempt us from practicing Sabbath rest as directed in Scripture.
I can’t get everything done
Ever considered the possibility that one reason you’re having trouble getting things done is you’re tired? Research attempting to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity found employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and drops off a cliff after 55 hours. Pastors who put in 70 hours produce nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published in 2014 by John Pencavel of Stanford University. Here’s the truth if you’re a pastor: you’re in the relationship business, and relationships are never done. There will always be more work to do. Accept that truth and get some rest!
I can’t stand sitting still
This excuse should frighten you. It may indicate addiction—adrenaline addiction. Adrenaline affects your brain much like crack does. You get hooked on the rush of busyness, and rest makes you uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable is never an excuse for disobeying God. He urges us in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
I don’t have enough people helping
That may be true, but take a step back and analyze the situation for a minute. Is it possible your pace has gotten in the way of people development? How many leaders don’t have enough help because they’ve bought into the myth that “if I want it done right, I have to do it myself?” If you’re a pastor, one of your top priorities—according to Ephesians 4—is releasing people to serve where their passion, pain, and proficiency intersect. Leaders who have learned to share the ministry load with others find it easier to decelerate on a regular basis.
I’m afraid things will fall apart
Pastoring is a faith venture. It requires faith to believe you can get more done in six days than in seven. You need faith to believe God is minding the store while you take a day off. That He is still working even while you rest. (It’s His church after all). You can’t pastor effectively without faith. Regular intervals of rest are acts of faith.
Being a busy pastor was modeled to me
If running 100 mph with your hair on fire is the model you cut your leadership teeth on, it’s time to trade in that clunker for a biblical model. The principle of rest is pervasive throughout Scripture. Jesus rested, and admonished His disciples to do the same. No other way around it.
Pastors: enough excuses. Enough explaining away why you consistently ignore Sabbath. Enough workaholism. It’s time to learn the priority of rest, to cease striving, to appreciate the power of stillness and quiet reflection. It’s time to adopt a healthy rhythm of work and rest. It’s time to reject the notion that pastoral ministry has to result in the negative stats outlined by the Barna study.
It’s time to get fed up.
I’m rooting and praying for you!
P.S. – Have you ever felt abandoned, deserted, betrayed, and let down by parishioners who’ve left the church you pastor? Ever been blindsided by people bolting from your congregation, and wondered: “How are we going to recover from their departure?” Putting the Good in Goodbye: A Healthy Conversation About the Comings & Goings of Church People will encourage you, give you perspective, and provide a game plan for navigating the pain and disappointment you feel when church members exit. You can pick up a copy here.