“Pastor.” The title may have lost some respect over the years due to high-profile scandals, Hollywood hit jobs, and TV caricatures. But the word still conjures up good things in many American minds. A 2011 study by Rasmussen says 70% of Americans view pastors favorably.
But pastors, through all of their healing, restoring, and guiding work, sometimes live with a lot secret pain. According to a survey by the New York Times in 2010, about 1,500 pastors per month leave the ministry due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
- 45% of pastors say they’ve experienced enough burnout or depression to feel the need to take significant time away from ministry.
- 57% of pastors report that they would leave ministry if they thought there was somewhere else to go.
- 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
- 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
- 33% say that being in ministry is a hazard to their families.
“Not my pastor!” No, I hope not. But some pastor friends of mine have reached these points. I recently surveyed pastors across several denominations and asked them what was most frustrating in their ministry. I gave them multiple options to choose from, as well as the opportunity to write their own answers. Here’s what they told me about their greatest challenges:
What’s toughest about your job?
- Family and work balance (42%)
- Getting people to volunteer (42%)
- Time for meaningful prayer (42%)
- People stresses and conflict (39%)
- Following up on people and losing guests (36%)
- Outreach planning (28%)
- Personal time management (25%)
Odds are, your pastor struggles with four or five of these. I want you to look at the common thread in the seven. Do you see it?
That one factor ties it all together.
In former days, people led lives with more margin, less media, smaller houses, only one car, and fewer options. Pastors had a privileged position in the community. They were not expected to be CEOs, doing executive work in a complicated world.
Pastors today have more to administrate than ever before, and they are often overwhelmed and frustrated. There is a lot of “shadow work” that drains time and creative energy.
If you want to help him, here’s the best thing you can do: Ask him if you can take something over.
Here’s the way people usually do it — which is the wrong way: “Pastor, let me know if I can help you with anything.”
That’s incredibly vague… and honestly, that statement is probably frustrating to your pastor. It requires him to do all the work of:
- Finding the work that needs to be done
- Thinking of all the people who have said they would help him
- Deciding who would be best at it
- Overcoming his fear that you are too busy
- Overcoming his doubt that you were just being nice
- Contacting you and trying to schedule a time to get together
- Waiting for you to have the time to do it
- Doing this every time there’s a new project!
Honestly, it’s emotionally easier for your pastor just to do it himself! (So he does!)
The people who are the biggest blessing to their pastor are the ones who offer to do something specific and do it well, week after week.
So here’s what you do instead:
- Ask him, “Do you mind if I took over ____ and made it so good you would never have to think about it again?”
- If he hesitates, ask, “Or, is there something else I could lift off your plate? Something that drains your energy?”
- Ask him, “Could I buy you coffee and sit down to make a list of what you’d like to get done in that area?”
- Meet for coffee and write it all down.
- Ask him if he can do it with you once.
- Ask him questions, as you do it together.
- Go nail it the next week.
- Ask for his feedback how you could improve.
- Go nail it every week after that.
Your pastor will literally feel the lift from day one, just from having someone else on the team. By the time you reach the last step, he will be willing to swim a river full of crocodiles for you. Now, what are you waiting for? Share this article with your pastor, and tell him you want to buy his lunch or coffee.