Friday, August 6, 2010

Dealing with Pastoral Burn-Out

Regardless of whether pastors are young adults just starting out in ministry or senior adults with a lifetime of experience, a significant issue that many bivocational pastors face is burn-out. Pastors burn-out when they become emotionally drained by the stress of serving a church full time and working an additional full time job.

While larger churches often have access to resources to help their pastors return to health, smaller churches rarely have that capability. Pastoral burn-out is a serious obstacle for smaller churches to overcome. When bivocational pastors begin to burn-out, they usually end up leaving the churches they serve.

Since burn-out happens more often in small churches that can only afford bivocational pastors, small churches often go long periods of time without adequate pastoral leadership. These frequent gaps in pastoral leadership often cause small churches to struggle constantly to achieve health. This becomes a vicious cycle that small churches often cannot find their way out of.

The solution is to help bivocational pastors become more effective in delegating some of their pastoral duties to others so they will not become exhausted and leave. This is especially important to young pastors who often have families that can be adversely affected by constantly moving from one church to another.

As pastors are assisted in learning how to delegate some pastoral duties to others, they will have more energy to devote to ministry and will find greater fulfillment in their ministries. These pastors will also be able to remain in their churches longer, resulting in healthier churches and healthier pastors.

A number of practical tools are available to train bivocational pastors to delegate some of their pastoral duties to others. One of those resources is my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. Dennis Bickers has also written three books that help bivocational pastors deal with the unique pressures of working two jobs. Pastors might consider joining the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network, which is a group of pastors who encourage each other in their ministries. Why continue to struggle when help is available?


  1. Good thoughts, Terry. When I was starting out in ministry, I had a small, rural, church here in VT. I had read some of Lyle Schaller's work, & came across a used book of his on pastoring small churches. He wisely counseled his readers to "learn to play golf on Mondays"--whether we golf or not! He explained that in a very small church, one hard-working pastor really can do it all, but that isn't healthy for him or the church. I took it to heart, &, to reiterate your point, the practice kept me there longer.

  2. Just looked at your book. WOW, very practical. And thanks for the lead on Bicker's books. They are a few years old, but I'll probably pick them up when I get done with yours. Loved the link to the website for the small church group. I need to connect more with groups like that.

  3. life is the same way. We all face burn out. Even in our regular life. Life can be over whelming at time. I am facing that now. I just pray about it and keep going forward. Ignoring the negative thoughts and replacing them with good thoughts.

  4. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

    The book is also available on, Barnes and and a many other online bookstores.
    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.