Burned Out Pastors: Don't Quit. Give Yourself a Reset Instead!

growth mindset May 08, 2023
Half of American Pastors are Burned Out and Ready to Quit


Nearly 50% of American pastors say they struggle with burnout and have considered quitting in the last year, believing that a fresh start somewhere else is just what they need.

What if you didn’t have to go somewhere else to get a fresh start. What if you could press the reset button on your life and ministry right now, and create a fresh start right where you’re at?

Well I believe you can, and today I’ll share 5 steps you can take to get unstuck, give yourself a reset, and move forward in your life and work, in this episode of the More Than a Pastor Show.


Links for Today's Show




Nearly Half of American Pastors Feel Burned Out

Being a pastor in a local church should be a rewarding and fulfilling calling, right? And many times it is. But the constant demands of ministry can also be incredibly stressful and draining, leaving many pastors feeling burned out, overwhelmed, or even stuck.

A 2022 survey by Barna reports that 42% of American pastors say they have struggled with burnout and have been thinking about quitting in the last year. Can you guess some of the biggest reasons why? Well, if you’re one of these pastors, I’m sure you could.


The Top 3 Reasons Why Burned-out Pastors are Thinking About Quitting

Here are the top three reasons why pastors feel burned-out and are thinking about quitting:

  1. Stress - 56% said it was the immense stress of the job that was leading them to quit. I am sure that the added stress of the last three years of COVID has been one of the biggest factors here.
  2. Isolation - 43% said, “I feel lonely and isolated.” I hear that from many pastors. Which is ironically sad, because as pastors, we’re surrounded by people. We have a congregation that shows up on Sunday (hopefully), we have volunteers and sometimes we have staff we work with. But we feel we have few people we can talk to, who get us, who are in our corner, who we can be real with. To be honest, this is one of the reasons why I’ve started More Than a Pastor. Because I know that so many pastors have financial struggles and concerns, and hardly no one they can trust to talk with about them. And if that’s you, then listen up, pastor, I’m in your corner. I believe in you. And I want to give you permission…you don’t need it, but I want to give you permission to do what you need to do to provide for your family. And in this episode we’re going to talk about some ways you can give yourself a reset if you’re not happy with how things are going in your life and ministry right now.
  3. Political Divisions - Lastly, 38% said that “current political divisions” were the big reasons why they were considering stepping away. I get this one too. In fact, I’ve talked a lot in previous episodes on how I think the political divisions are one of the big reasons why the younger generations are leaving the church.

It’s sad to me that so many pastors come to a point where they believe they no longer have control over things they ought to be able to control, like their attitude, schedule, energy, expectations, relationships, and that the only, or perhaps it’s the easiest, way to fix the problem, in their mind, is to leave their current church and go somewhere else and get a fresh start.

But I can certainly understand why. Because change can be extremely difficult. And sometimes we realize that the problems we face are of our own making, or we neglected to do something about it when we could, and we’re ashamed to admit it. Or we’ve allowed them to exist for so long that they feel normal. They’ve become habits we cannot break, or the price now seems too high to try.

Or we feel that we don’t have the emotional energy to change expectations, and have difficult conversations with board members, staff, volunteers, or others involved.
And sometimes we just keep hoping and praying that things will somehow eventually get better on their own.

There’s a quote from Winston Churchill that I’ve always found to be interesting and relevant for church facilities, but I believe it’s also relevant for the work and life of a pastor too. He said:

"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

What’s his point? That we take a small amount of time - maybe really just a couple of months - to design a building and give it a form that fits the function we have in mind for it now. And after it is built, the building’s form will dictate its function for decades to come.

And isn’t the same true for our life and ministry in the church too. When we take on a position, we create or accept a certain set of expectations, rhythms, schedules, goals, and procedures that will enable us to accomplish the work we are called to do. But then they can end up dictating the way we work…for years to come. Unless we are able to adapt and change the expectations, rhythms, schedules, goals, and procedures that no longer work for us, as our reality changes.

I know many pastors find themselves in a church where they feel stuck, unfulfilled, and worn out, unable to adapt or bring about the change they seek, because of a board or other layer of leadership above them. So they feel the only way to make that kind of change is to leave and start over at a different church.

If that’s you, could I invite you to consider something for a moment?

What if you didn’t have to go somewhere else to get a fresh start. What if you could press the reset button on your life and ministry right now, and create a fresh start right where you’re at?
When computers and other electronic devices get stuck in a pattern where they are not functioning correctly, there’s a button we can press to shut it down and restart it.

While humans don’t exactly have a reset button, there are things we can do to give ourselves a reset, and change how we’re functioning or operating.


5 Steps for Giving Yourself a Reset

So today I want to share 5 steps for giving yourself a reset when you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or overwhelmed:


1. Remove Yourself

Take a step back, catch your breath. This can help you gain clarity and perspective on the challenges you are facing. This is one of the reasons why God has given us the Sabbath each week, and why sabbaticals are so powerful. They give us rhythms for rest, recharging, and renewal.

2. Review the Situation

Take a fresh look at the situation. What’s going on? Where are you stuck and why? Who else is involved in the situation?

3. Reframe the problem

Sometimes how we see the problem is the problem. It’s a matter of perspective. As pastors, we see that in counseling all the time, don’t we? People come to us with a problem. But as they describe their situation we realize that the problem they have isn’t the problem they think they have. What did you believe to be true about this that you now know isn’t true or valid now? Ask God and others for wisdom on how to navigate the situation.

Tina Seelig, author of Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head And Into the World, shares 3 tips for reframing our problem:

  1. Rethink the Question - For example, we might struggle to live on the income our church pays us, and our question is: How can I get my church to pay me more? Then our answers are kind of limited. But if we rethink the question into: How can I earn more money? Now I have dozens of solutions that are inside and outside the church.
  2. Brainstorm Bad ideas - I love to brainstorm, and I believe ideation is a gift the Lord has given me. But for every great idea I come up with for myself or someone else, I come up with many more bad ones. For me, it’s just part of the process. Let your thinking go wild, write down every possible idea you come up with. Don’t pre-judge whether it works or not. The act of brainstorming and writing down all kinds of ideas can lead you to the one that’s just right for you!
  3. Unpack Your Assumptions - We all need to question our assumptions from time to time. Many pastors and churches have an assumption that all pastors should be content with the money the church pays them, whether they can live on it or not. And that poverty comes with the territory when you’re a pastor. Unpacking your assumptions means turning them on their head. Envisioning the opposite.This can be hard because most assumptions have been deeply ingrained within us. But I believe the ability to reframe problems will be key for the survival of pastors and churches going forward. Things are changing rapidly, and many long-held assumptions need to be questions, and new pathways created. For example, one huge assumption in the church today is that many young people are leaving the church because they are rejecting truth and abandoning their faith. But what if they’re rejecting false certainty and abandoning institutional religion? So if you’re feeling stuck and burned out, question the assumptions you and your church have about who decides how you spend your time, how you can earn income for your family, what are the expectations for your duties, etc.

4. Reimagine solutions

The process of reframing the problem can help us identify new opportunities and possibilities we may not have considered before. Take some time to reimagine your preferred future. Including your schedule, the expectations for your role, how you derive your income, etc. As you do, create a clear picture in your mind’s eye of how you want things to be different. And make a list of things that need to be changed, people who will be affected, etc.

5. Relaunch yourself

With a new way of operating. Some decisions may be easy to implement as they affect no one but yourself. But others may require careful planning and communication, because of how others will be affected. So take the time to strategize the best way to move forward to your preferred future.


Application & Action

So, what do you think? Have you used any of these steps in the past to help you get unstuck and move forward? Or can you see how these could help you get a much-needed reset right where you’re at? If this episode has helped you, please let me know by leaving me a review on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever it is that you’re watching or listening.

Also, if you wish you had someone to talk to about your situation. Maybe you’re wondering if you need more than a reset. Or you feel so stuck you just don’t know where to begin or how you could move forward in your current context, why don’t you apply for one of my free coaching calls. That’s what Josh did. He loved his current ministry role, but felt stuck in a couple of areas and just wasn’t clear about the best way to move forward. He reached out for coaching. And we were able to help him clarify his goals and identify his next best steps.

I’d love to be able to help you too. And it all begins when you apply for that free call. Once I receive your application and see that your situation is something I can help with, I’ll reach out and find a day and time for us to connect and get to know each other, and to discover where you’re at and where you want to be. Then we can decide if it makes sense for us to work together to help you achieve your goals.

You can request that free call today at www.morethanapastor.com/coaching.

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