Real Talk Monday: Pastor, Whose Fault Is Your Burnout?

Who is to blame when leaders burn out?

Real Talk Monday: Pastor, Whose Fault is Your Burnout?

Pastor, if you burn out, you have no one to blame.

I know, that sounds absolutely depressing and accusatory.

But for pastors, it’s true.

Why?

Before I answer that, let’s back up.

Why do leaders burn out?

They burn out because they don’t get enough sleep, they say yes to too many things, they don’t eat properly, they preach too many times a year, they have too many meetings, they don’t recharge themselves well, they don’t do anything relaxing or fun, they don’t take a Sunday off, they work too many hours and they don’t deal with the emotional side of ministry well.

So, whose fault is this?

Well, if you suffer from these, your first response will be to say that your church puts a lot of pressure on you (which they might), your elders have high expectations for you (which they do), so it must be them.

Your kids want to be in every sport, and you and your wife want to make sure your kids get all the things you didn’t have.

So if you burn out, whose fault is it? If you are tired, whose fault is it?

Stop for a minute and imagine you and you alone are standing in front of a mirror.

That’s whose fault it is.

That’s who’s responsible.

Re-read this paragraph: Pastors burn out because they don’t get enough sleep, they say yes to too many things, they don’t eat properly, they preach too many times a year, they have too many meetings, they don’t recharge themselves well, they don’t do anything relaxing or fun, they don’t take a Sunday off, they work too many hours and they don’t deal with the emotional side of ministry well.

All of those things are on you.

Does anyone make you get up at a certain hour or stay up until a certain hour? Does anyone make you say yes? Who puts food in your mouth? Who decides the preaching calendar? Who makes your meeting schedule? Who prevents you from doing something fun? Who keeps you from taking a Sunday off? Who decided not to have a friend outside of their church they could vent to about the emotional side of ministry?

The answer to those questions?

You.

Let me give you an example if you are still skeptical.

Right now you’re reading this blog (thanks for that). Does your church know what you are doing? Does your church know if you are reading a blog to better yourself, working on a sermon, counseling someone, taking a nap or researching for fantasy football?

They have no idea.

Your church doesn’t know what you eat, when you sleep and how you recharge. And for the most part, they don’t care, because they expect you to be responsible and care for yourself.

You are responsible for your health, your relationship with God, your emotional and physical energy, for making sure you relax, take your days off, take a vacation. You are responsible for that.

So if you burn out, that’s on you.

Maybe another example will help.

This happened to me recently. I had over-scheduled my preaching calendar (so I preached too many weeks in a row), I had too many trips on top of each other, our kids were in a lot of activities, I was angry with and hurt by a few people that I didn’t deal with as quickly as I should have, and I had put too many meetings on my calendar.

I was tired and I got upset, blamed some other people and talked about the high expectations that people have for me. Then my wife reminded me that I’m in charge of all that stuff.

So are you.

Take responsibility and control of it.

Remember: Too many pastors give control of their lives and calendars to others.

Joshua Reich
Joshua Reich is the Lead Pastor at Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ. Revolution is an Acts 29 church that dreams of saturating the city of Tucson with gospel-centered church planting churches. Josh has a B.S. in Pastoral Leadership from Lancaster Bible College and an M.Div. in Organizational/Missional Leadership from Biblical Seminary. In addition to writing here, some of his writing also appears at Church Leaders. Josh’s new book, Breathing Room, comes out September 2015.