A group of ministers told me about a senior pastor they knew who resigned because the demands of ministry had become too much. This was not the first person they knew personally who resigned this year. Such sudden exits make sense: just when we thought we were coming out of the doldrums of a pandemic, a viral variant has businesses, schools, the entertainment industry and churches rethinking their fall plans. In addition, let’s not forget about the global crises and natural disasters that require pastoral responses, financial resources and engaged leadership.

The uncertainty of these times not only changes our assumptions about what’s possible in the short term, but it also takes its toll on leaders’ mental and emotional well-being – and clergy are no exception. Church leaders’ mental and emotional health impacts their long-term overall health, as well as the effectiveness of their congregations.

  • Some of the mental and emotional fatigue we experience can result in burnout, which is more than just stress. “Stress” is the general tension we all feel in most areas of our lives – relationships, professional demands, planning for the future. “Burnout” is the emotional response to unresolved work-related stress. Leaders may try to power through the feelings of exhaustion, cynicism and low job satisfaction, but that usually only makes the problem worse. We can’t power through burnout. If you’re experiencing severe burnout, you probably need much more than a vacation. You will definitely need more than balance. You may need a change.
  • Research indicates that we can avoid burnout when we have strong social networks and rich, spiritual resources. While the COVID-19 vaccines are designed to keep our bodies physically healthy, how are you taking care of your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being? What spiritual practices do you incorporate into your meetings, planning and weekly patterns? Here’s a guide for using fixed-hour prayer with your staff team.


Why ‘balance’ is a faulty metaphor

From the Center for Creative Leadership

Before you go…

I once had the chance to ask the late Eugene Peterson how he sustained the discipline to write “The Message” Bible. He laughed and said he didn’t need discipline – because the task was a joy.

Like many of you, I have full-time responsibilities at a church. Still, I accepted the invitation to work with Alban Weekly because it’s a joy for me to partner with you in thinking about what truly matters in ministry. Each week I will try to respond to your pressing questions by highlighting practical resources from diverse perspectives. Email me your comments and suggestions at alban@duke.edu. Share Alban Weekly with a friend. Thanks for your leadership, and blessings on the good work you are doing.

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity