“Hi honey, can we talk?”
You’re just getting home from a long day.
You were hoping to finally get a moment to yourself, but…
“It’s been a rough day with the kids”, you hear.
It was a day of meetings and addressing people’s needs and you’re completely exhausted.
SIGH… one more problem to solve.
“Sure! What’s going on?”
You reply half-heartedly turning your back to get some food from the fridge.
Pastors agree: the job IS demanding.
A study done by Lifeway research in 2015 reported that 84% of current pastors and 83 percent of former pastors say they feel on call 24 hours a day.
Also, 48% percent of each group say the demands of ministry often feel like more than they can handle.
In a survey of former pastors, 48% of those churches didn’t have a support plan for the pastor that included a list of counsellors for referrals, clear church’s expectations, a sabbatical plan, a lay counselling ministry or a support group for the pastor’s family. (Click here to read more from the Lifeway study)
Clearly, there needs to be more balance.
When you mix a pastor, who is a natural giver and devoted to the service of others, and culture with few boundaries and support systems it’s going to result in significant levels of burnout and compassion fatigue.
It seems there is an expectation that pastors will have the knowledge and skills to develop support systems and balance the high demand of the job, but according to Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay research:
“Many seminary programs don’t even require courses on the people side—they’re focused on theology, biblical languages, and preaching, which are important, but almost half of the pastors felt unprepared for dealing with the people they were preparing in seminary to lead and serve,”
A recipe for a disaster if you ask me.
Combine low job satisfaction and feeling powerless and overwhelmed at work and you’ll get burnout.
Physical and emotional exhaustion.
The key terms here are job satisfaction, powerless and overwhelmed.
Burnout can be resolved fairly easily.
Changing or shifting part or all of your job.
This can provide immediate relief to someone suffering from job-related burnout.
However, compassion fatigue involves profound emotional and physical erosion that takes place when helpers are unable to refuel and regenerate.
With compassion fatigue, there are lasting wounds or erosion that is felt even if a person changes jobs.
Think of it like going to a bonfire.
You sit in a spot to avoid the smoke from the fire, yet when you leave the fire the smoke is still stuck to your clothes, hair and even skin.
The same thing happens when you care for a person.
Even though you are not the one hurting the impacts of caring stick to you like smoke. The impacts are felt long after you care for that person.
The work of helping requires people to open their hearts and minds to those who they are helping – unfortunately, this very process of empathy is what makes helpers vulnerable to negative impacts.
We are impacted by the world around us.
Yet, the Bible states that we are not of this world (John 18:36, Philippians 3:20, John 17:14).
We need to not allow the impacts of the world to overtake our hearts and minds but instead rule over them (Gen. 4:7, Gen. 1:28, Eph. 2:1-6).
What we see, hear, touch and do has the ability to impact us in a much deeper level then we would expect.
And we need to stay keenly aware of its impacts so we can stay resilient and continue the work God has called us to do.
Here is a link to a quiz that will help identify if you are struggling with burnout or compassion fatigue. This will guide you to self-reflection and next steps to creating boundaries and support systems to bring more balance to your life.