Being in pastoral ministry is one of the most rewarding careers available. At the same time it is stressful and there are all too many cases of burnout.
Pastoral ministry does not have to lead to burnout. There are some steps that you can take that will help to keep you healthy.
1. Focus on your own relationship with God. Personal prayer and spiritual renewal is not a distraction to ministry, it is essential for good ministry. Do not be afraid to block off time in your day for time with God. Tell your board that you have an important meeting, after all that is what it is.
2. Put your family before your congregation. There was time that congregations respected pastors who neglected their families as it was a sign of their dedication to the church. No longer! Family must come first. Taking time for your family does not make you a lazy pastor. As a pastor you should want your congregation to have healthy family relationships and it is more effective to model it than to teach it.
3. Keep yourself healthy, mentally and physically. Be watching for signs of emotional stress and be willing to treat mental health issues right away. Treating mental health is no different than treating diabetes. Take time to exercise. Even though your schedule may be full, taking time in the morning to exercise will help you to be more productive mentally and physically.
4. Have good friendships with other pastors. I do not mean the pastors that feel the need to compete in the size of the congregation or number of programs. Find pastors that you can be honest with about the struggles in ministry. Find the pastors that you can pray with and encourage one another.
5. Set up healthy boundaries. It is true that you are a pastor 24/7 but that does not mean that you always have to act in that capacity. Many issues can be put off until office hours. There are needy people that should be encouraged to respect limits. Get the congregation to know and respect your day off.
These tips are offered as ways to make burnout less likely. The key is to understand that much of this is in your control. Do not be fooled into thinking that burning out is a way to show your dedication to God. God does not want you to destroy yourself or your family. Serve God, minister to the congregation, reach out to the community, but make sure to take care of yourself and your family.