By Randy & Linda Myers
Ministry is a privilege. To think that God would use people like me for His Kingdom and in His church is something I never get used it. And some of us get to do ministry as a vocation. We actually get paid to do it. But ministry also has its disappointments and challenges.
We are in a four-week series of blogs entitled “Ministry Years.” Last week we looked at the early years and today we’ll talk about conflict and burnout during the “Middle Years.”
It’s sobering to realize that only a small percentage of pastors that start out in the ministry will retire as pastors. Pastors leave for any number of reasons. Most include fights within the church, hard work of being a leader, criticism, stress, and burnout. What can change this trend?
Dealing with conflict and burnout are areas that can face ministry families during the middle years.
Conflict happens. We can’t avoid it (though we’re tempted to!)– we have to deal with it as leaders. Most of the times we experienced conflict in ministry was because of a change. We changed staff, changed music styles, and change came from building projects. I didn’t realize as a young pastor how often change created loss – a loss of control, a loss of the familiar, or a loss of expectations.
I know I could have communicated better or listened more over the years but conflict will happen. In the book, How to Lead in Church Conflict, Byron Lyon and Dan Moseley relate these losses to grief. “The process of managing conflict is remembering, in a healthy manner, forgiveness and mercy. Leading means attending to losses and managing the grief process.”
Too many pastors cave in to conflict rather than work through it. Conflict has happened all through church history and there is the added dimension of the unseen spiritual warfare we battle against. Stay the course by seeking Godly counsel, praying for God’s protection, and asking for wisdom.
Wayne Cordeiro wrote about his experience with burnout in Leading On Empty, “My vision for the church was barren, and the once-alive heart that beat incessantly for others had begun to shrink. Each day that passed was taking a toll on me, but I didn’t know how to stop the progression. Whatever was causing the drain was winning.” (pg. 14)
Some of the symptoms of burnout are feeling like you are on constant alert, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Feeling exhausted, cynical and ineffective, trying to go on but just keep stuffing criticisms, complaints and hurts. It’s easy to start pretending – pretending we want to do what needs to be done, but really just wanting to numb ourselves in front of the TV. Pretty soon we have developed a thick protective barrier around our hearts.
“I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19b)
Denying burnout or wishing it would go away won’t work – taking a break and getting help will. This may require a sabbatical, counseling, or a fresh way of living our lives. Allowing God to minister helps us remember that He gives strength for each day.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19b)
BEFORE YOU GO…
We’d love to hear your comments! What are some ways you’ve dealt with conflict and burnout? What are some other things we face in the middle years of ministry?
Next week: What to do with loneliness and expectation…The Middle Years – Part Two.