I don’t know a pastor who hasn’t dealt with burnout. We all face times of emptiness. As pastors we are in a giving profession. If we invest large amounts of time and energy into serving others, without filling our own tank, we burnout.
I know…I’ve been there too.
As a pastor, I must pay close attention to my spiritual and emotional wellbeing. I want to fulfill my calling and impact as many people as possible. Yet, if I’m not careful to feed my own soul, I risk paying a huge price.
Recently I was on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles. I quickly found my seat, put my earbuds in place, and began listening to a podcast. When the flight attendants began the safety briefing, something inside me said “pay attention.” I took out the earbuds and listened as the attendants talked about what would happen if the plane lost cabin pressure. Oxygen masks would drop down.
Like most passengers, I’ve seen this drill so many times that I don’t give it any thought. But for some reason, this time it caught my attention.
“Be sure to put your own mask on first, and then help others around you”, the attendant said.
Oxygen. If you aren’t getting enough of it, you’ll be of no help to anyone around you.
I put my phone away, closed my eyes as God began to speak to my heart, right there in seat 16D. How many times have I tried to lead, but did so from an empty tank?
I heard God’s Spirit speak to me: “Loren, you’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask on first. You are investing your life into so many other people, but you’ve got to pay attention to your own soul.”
I’ll never forget a word that I received as a young pastor. The elderly pastor said, “Loren, your pulpit ministry should be an overflow of your devotional life.”
I truly believe this, but there are so many demands on our time. How do we fit it all in? How can a pastor pray, study, preach, counsel, visit, lead, disciple, organize, teach, create, paint, clean, etc, and still make sure you are feeding your own soul?
Finding the right balance between our spiritual life, our family life, and our ministry can be extremely challenging. Here’s are some things that help breathe new life into your soul.
1. Re-start your devotional life – If your time with God is non-existent, dull, or has simply become a ritual, it’s time to re-start. Identify what recharges your spiritual batteries. Do something new. Find a spiritual disciple you can be passionate about, one that you look forward to.
2. A weekly day off – As I talk to other pastors, I’m learning that many pastors do not have a consistent weekly day off. This can be especially challenging for bi-vocational pastors. But, there are full-time pastors who are workaholics and infrequently take time off. One pastor commented to me, “I don’t know what I would do on a day off.”
In creation God worked six days and rested one. Jesus frequently went to the mountains to pray and rest. If you’ll make a day off a priority in your schedule, it will make an incredible difference in how you feel physically and emotionally.
3. Seven to eight hours of sleep – I’ve seen pastors wear a lack of sleep as a badge of honor. “We are so busy at our church, I only slept four hours last night.” The CDC recommends that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each night for optimum productivity. Sleep is critical for your physical, emotional, and relational health. Skip it and you’ll pay the consequences.
4. The priority of family – It’s so vital to schedule work around your family time. Do you take regular date nights with your spouse? Are you spending enough time with your children? Have you planned your next vacation? Download my free ebook: “110 Free And Discounted Vacation Getaways For Pastors”.
5. A trusted friend – If you’ve been leading on empty, you need the help of a trusted friend to help you find balance and health. There is power in accountability and I’m learning that most pastors need more of it. Find someone with whom you can talk openly and honestly. This might be a pastor friend, a counselor, or a coach.
6. Physical fitness – There is a direct link to physical fitness and emotional health. If you feel empty and depleted, are you paying attention to your physical health? Are you exercising consistently? Are you eating a healthy diet?
7. Outside interests – Do you have a life outside the church? You need the distraction of hobbies, entertainment, and other activities to help you stay balanced.
8. Laughter – Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” It’s true that laughter is medicine for the soul. How long has it been since you’ve had a good laugh? Hanging out with good friends or watching a funny movie can lift your spirits and change your emotional state.
The consequence of unchecked burnout raises its ugly head in so many ways: fatigue, despair, depression, broken relationships, sin, etc. Take inventory of your soul today. Are you empty? It might be time to breathe new life into your soul.
If you are struggling with emptiness and burnout, I highly suggest you read Wayne Cordeiro’s book, “Leading on Empty”.
Question: What can you add to this list? What helps breathe new life into your soul? What helps you avoid burning out? Leave your comments on Facebook.
Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are off-topic, rude, or offensive. Comments guidelines.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past