Burnout is an intimidating word. Most pastors think they hold an "Exempt Card"
that makes them impervious to the experience of burnout. Too often, the surprise and resulting shame from burnout leaves the resulting ashes buried deep within the psyche and soul of the victims. The truth is that pastors who tend to be "people pleasers" are very vulnerable to the wiles of burnout and often tend to cover the symptoms with some type of self medication.
Perry Noble ( a well known pastor to thousands) recently fell prey to the impact of burnout and has modeled renewed healing and openness about its cynical and destructive results. He said in a recent interview with Carey Nieuwhof, "Leaders develop really unhealthy patterns and we call it leadership."
As a result of recent reading, listening to pastors/leaders and my own personal experience over forty years ago, I made the following compilation of some warning signs:
1. I could perform for an event then felt so drained I could not function the rest of the day.
2. Sleep did not refresh me for ministry. I awakened tired or at least easily tired.
3. I became humorless and no longer laughed freely.
4. I had a low level of patience and a quick anger over minutiae.
5. I had less energy and was less productive than previously.
6. People frustrated me and dealing with their issues left me drained.
7. My optimism turned to pessimism.
While this is not a scientific nor a complete list, I would suggest that if you see yourself in the mirror of these simple sentences that you begin to look for a spiritual companion to help you. You are not alone in this journey. The worst choice is to isolate yourself from others who could be a resource for you.
The field seemed alive with movement. It was filled with a gaggle of geese gathering from their nests to prepare for a flight south. The nearby lake was crowded like a favorite beach on a sweltering summer day. Geese outnumbered citizens in the little village. Somehow an inner calling had gathered these migrants as they responded to an inner intuition that summer days would soon fade and be replaced by the brisk autumn breeze.
As I marvel at the rhythms of nature, I realize that there is an intuitive message within that often prepares me for the next movement in my life. However, I find that there are many distractions in my life that prevent hearing the message. The noise of my life activities somehow squelch that quiet inner voice and allows me to miss the opportunity to engage important holistic spiritual life. What practice would actually allow me to hear that inner urging? I spend my days meeting with spiritual leaders creating space to be attentive. Yet I find that I, like Paul warns, can become a “castaway” by ignoring the inner promptings whispering in my own soul. So, I sit here this morning listening attentively trying to tune into those messages of my soul.