Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing his reflections and practical insights as a ministry leader on Greenelines, a new podcast. Listen at charismapodcastnetwork.com.


Vision-photoThere are few vocations that can engender burnout like the pastorate. The demands on a pastor’s time, emotions and energy can be overwhelming. When I was a pastor, I often felt at least the symptoms of burnout.

I recently spoke with 17 pastors who had experienced burnout or who felt they came precariously close to burnout. The good news about these pastors is that they moved out of burnout, and now they are re-engaging in exciting and visionary ministries.

So I asked them the obvious question: What did you do to reverse the dark spiral of burnout? The question was open-ended, so they could respond with as many answers as they desired. When it was all said and done, I tabulated 12 different responses from the 17 pastors. Obviously, many of them gave similar answers.

Here are the 12 responses ranked in order of frequency. Each answer has a representative quote from one of the pastors.

1. Spent more time in prayer and the Word. “Slowly over time, I spent less and less time in the Bible and in prayer. I succumbed to the tyranny of the urgent. When I committed to reversing that pattern, my life and leadership began to renew.”

2. Dreamed again. “When I first arrived at this church, I had great visions and excitement. But I got caught up in negativity and trivial things, and I lost my vision. But recently I asked God to restore my dream and vision for my church, and He’s already answering that prayer.”

3. Stopped comparing. “One of the most freeing things of my ministry was to stop comparing myself to other pastors and my church to other churches. I finally got it that God doesn’t love pastors of larger churches more than He loves me.”

4. Developed relationships with non-Christians. “I got so busy doing church that I started neglecting engaging people in the world. Now I make certain that I’m in some type of ongoing relationship with a non-Christian.”

5. Moved my focus from the negative to the positive. “I don’t know why I let the critics dominate my time and thoughts. When I stopped letting them control me, and when I started spending more time with positive and great people in the church, my entire emotional state improved dramatically.”

6. Learned to have fun. “I realized that there is a difference between taking my ministry seriously and taking myself too seriously. I have learned to lighten up and laugh more. As a result, I find myself rejoicing in the Lord more.”

7. Ended draining relationships. “There was this church member that made an appointment with me almost every week. He was so negative and so draining of my emotional energy. I knew he had his own emotional problems, but I knew I wasn’t equipped to deal with them. When I finally got the courage to end our counseling relationship and refer him to a professional, I felt like a weight had been lifted off me.”

8. Expressed gratitude regularly. “One of the ways I dealt with my impending burnout was to commit to handwrite five letters of gratitude a week. It was amazing to see how my vision began to restore when I took the focus off me and expressed gratitude to others.”

9. Spent more time doing things that energized. “I tend to be a prideful person, so I don’t like to admit that I am not very good at something. Well, I’m a poor administrator, so administrative work drains me. When I finally got the courage to admit I wasn’t very good at it, I had a lay volunteer step right in and take much of the work off me. He told me that everyone knew I was a lousy administrator and that he was thankful I finally admitted it. I am now spending time doing those things that I enjoy and give me energy.”

10. Got in better physical shape. “In my busyness, I started eating more, exercising less and sleeping fitfully. I stayed tired and depressed. But when I got into an exercise routine and ate better, my whole outlook changed."

11. Made a commitment to have a greater servant spirit. “I had trouble admitting that I had an ego problem. I always wanted things my way. God got to me and showed me that my calling in life is to serve others. It is absolutely amazing to see my leadership passion restored as I put myself last to the needs of others.”

12. Began to pray for community. “Burnout can be the result of looking inwardly too much. I asked God to give me a greater vision for our church’s community. Shortly after I prayed that prayer, I became burdened for the elementary school near our church. Now I’m praying for specific direction to serve the school. I know God will answer that prayer as well.”

How about you? Have you experienced burnout or near burnout in ministry? What steps did you take? Do you identify with these 12 steps taken by other pastors?


Dr. Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master's of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • Don't bring your sermons in for a crash landing.

    4 Terrible Ways to Close a Sermon

    People need an opportunity to respond to the Word of God.

  • Pastors and ministry leaders should be bold in preaching against the murder of unborn babies.

    Kingdom Influence: A Challenge to Young Pastors and Leaders

    Jentezen Franklin urges ministry leaders to be strong and courageous in dealing with these issues ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders