Preacher, are you feeling burned out? Do you feel dead inside? You might never admit it to yourself, but has the Gospel ceased to inspire you? Preacher, do you feel under assault? Is there friction or tension with your leaders? Members? In your family? Are you growing weary of conflict to the point that you want to abandon your ministry? I don’t know any minister who isn’t either having problems, just getting over problems, or is getting ready to have problems. And the same could be said for preachers and burnout. May I offer some advice that will help you?
Keep Your Head Down
Not every problem needs your involvement or solution. Don’t fall for the lie that says your finger should be in everything. My ministry was always healthier when, to some things, I could say, “That’s not my problem.” Many of us are “fixers” at heart and so we want to solve the challenges that face us and those we love. But you sometimes have to resist that urge in ministry. Someone once gave me great advice. “People want and need a safe spiritual place to worship.” In other words, no one is blessed by being a part of a congregation where there is always drama and conflict and tension and division. Do your part to keep churches (relatively) drama-free. Don’t feed conflict by engaging it. Some things aren’t your problem. Keep your head down and attend to the responsibilities assigned you, primarily the preaching of the Word.
Read Timothy & Titus Every Week
I can’t tell you just how much good it did me to read these letters from Paul every week. No matter what I was going through, they were the cure for what ailed me. It should be your habit to read these 13 chapters every week, and especially every Monday. In these letters, Paul has solid advice for dealing with criticism, avoiding unnecessary controversy, confronting error, keeping yourself from sin, and enduring trials. It helps me to know that I’m not putting up with anything that other ministers haven’t endured for 2,000 years.
You would think this is a given, but I know better. Almost always, the first thing to go in a preacher’s busy life is his habit of prayer. There are lessons to prepare, people to visit, events to plan, and deacons to horsewhip. Who has time to pray? There is a corollary between burn out and a nonexistent prayer life. Prayer, at least for me, keeps me connected to what God is doing in the world. Whenever I start to develop a messiah-complex (“What would this church do without me?”), God in prayer reminds me I’m not nearly as important as I think I am. That God remains the sole deciding factor in anything.
Reconnect with Your Brethren
Immerse yourself in their lives as much as possible. If you haven’t been practicing hospitality, begin doing so. Have them in your home for a meal. I have long said, it is hard to be mad at those with whom you regularly break bread. More than hospitality, revisit whether you have been faithful in ministering the word to your brethren. Especially privately. Preaching to them twice a week doesn’t cut it. A successful minister knows how to bring a specific word to a specific heart wrestling with specific circumstances. When you have reengaged with the hearts of your brethren, it has a way of uplifting you.
Don’t Be a Hermit
No matter how introverted you are, you need fellowship. And especially the fellowship and comfort and friendship of an older minister who can encourage you. No one knows a preacher’s heartache like another preacher. As a Timothy or Titus, connect and develop a relationship with a Paul. Someone who is positive. Someone who is encouraging. Someone who has your good at heart. Someone you can speak to in confidence. You were never meant to minister and suffer in silence. You were never meant to be the sole laborer in the vineyard. Take advantage of any opportunity to spend time with brothers-in-arms. You will be surprised at the lift your spirit receives.