Why do so many church leaders quit or go into early permanent retirement? This is epidemic these days. According to Pastor in Residence, a ministry aimed at restoring ministry casualties back to active duty, at any given time as many as 33% of American pastors consider throwing in the towel. And this is not a problem isolated among the “professionals”. Some of the same stressors also plague non-staff church leaders.
Perry Noble offers some wise insight aimed at my ministerial colleagues – and me. These are things we need to be reminded regularly. I know I do.
#1 – Burnout
I once heard someone say, “I would rather burn out than rust out.” Uh…BOTH are bad because NEITHER of them finish well. Too many people in the ministry work themselves into a frenzy, never take time to disconnect and refresh, and do absolutely nothing for fun–this always ends badly!
When it comes to leadership circles in America, we’ve equated being busy with being godly; however, the haunting reality that confronts that idea is what God Himself said in Psalm 46:10, “BE STILL and know that I am God,” not “be busy!”
If we are not taking regular breaks, doing things “just for fun,” and disconnecting, then burnout isn’t a matter of “if,” but “when!”
#2 – Unrealistic Expectations
Too many people believe that “ministry = easy” despite the fact that it seemed to go really badly for everyone in the Scriptures that sold their lives out to Him! Jesus went to the “place of the skull” to be crucified…why would we ever believe He would lead us to “the place of the mattress?”
When we impose our plans and ideas on God and refuse to surrender to His, it usually leads to people “giving up” because “God just didn’t come through.”
#3 – Criticism
Criticism hurts, it always will, and if it ever doesn’t, then, according to my counselor, something is dead inside of you. And it is always personal (especially when someone begins with, “Don’t take this personally, but…).
You can’t let the critics dictate what you think/feel! If you have a ministry that constantly responds to critics, then you will not have one that responds to Jesus. You MUST respond to the people who God has placed in your life to surround you and protect you–that’s not criticism but rather correction. However, you cannot allow those who know you the least to control you the most–period!
#4 – Discouragement
Every church leader I’ve ever chatted with has done some serious battles with discouragement. After your message on Sunday, the enemy comes in and begins to accuse you, telling you that you did a pathetic job and that no one is going to come back next week. I’ve had to battle discouragement during the message before, hearing voices inside of my head saying things like, “You stink, these people hate you…you need to quit the ministry…” and so on.
This is why it is essential for leaders to get in a place like David did in I Samuel 30:1-6. David faced an incredibly discouraging situation and yet somehow managed to find His strength in the Lord. I do this by reading through encouraging letters and e-mails that I’ve received in the past, placing myself in encouraging environments, and focusing on what God’s Word says about me.
#5 – Losing Focus on God’s Power
When we actually believe it is up to us to make people come back to church every week rather than believing we are conduits that God wants to work through to do that very thing…it’s over! Because we fall into the trap of trying to outdo ourselves every week, every series and every year and prayer/seeking the Lord become some things we love to talk about but fail to do. He saves…He draws people…and He uses us to do it. It’s not up to us but rather we need to allow Him to work through us to accomplish all that He wants to do!
Face it; on our own, we don’t have enough power to blow our noses. We need Him. He is the game changer!
~ Perry Noble is pastor of New Spring Church in Anderson, South Carolina