10 Ways to Handle Stress in Ministry

Stress in ministry is unavoidable but we don’t have to succumb to it. The problem comes with how we respond. To understand this, self-awareness is the vital tool. Without it, addressing stress and avoiding burnout is like trying to mend a car without wrenches. Success is unlikely.

  • 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”
  • 90% work between 55 to 75 hours per week
  • 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week
  • 70% say they’re grossly underpaid
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
  • 78% were forced to resign from their church (63% at least twice), most commonly because of church conflict
  • 80% will not be in ministry ten years later and only a fraction make it a lifelong career . On average, seminary trained pastors last only five years in church ministry
  • 100% of 1,050 Reformed and Evangelical pastors had a colleague who had left the ministry because of burnout, church conflict, or moral failure
  • 91% have experienced some form of burnout in ministry and 18% say they are “fried to a crisp right now”

Dealing with stress will keep you sane and give you longevity in ministry so that you can have a profound impact in the kingdom of God for good. A few things that can help along these lines are:

  1. Admit that something is out of kilter in your life. Simply naming the problem is your first step to solving it.
  2. Share with a close friend for support
  3. Take an honest look at your average week. Does it include a full day of rest when you disconnect from all things ministry?
  4. Start getting 30 more minutes of sleep each night.
  5. Have a life outside of ministry. Have a hobby or join a club where you are not around Christian people. Do outside activities that will get your heart pumping and adrenaline flowing. Whatever does it for you—cars, motorcycles, swimming, sports, fishing etc. Find something and have fun.
  6. Schedule time off at the beginning of each year. Put your vacation and family above the rest of the calendar and guard it.
  7. Practice silence and solitude. See the related posts below for insight on this important spiritual practice.
  8. Get away. Leave physically from your town and don’t feel guilty. Jesus did it frequently and thankfully He did not carry an iPhone.
  9. If it’s serious, find a coach or counselor who can help you dig out. Even if it’s not serious, periodically see a coach or counselor to help give you perspective.
  10. Take a Sabbatical. Your ministry should have some things in place that allow the leadership to be able to take breaks from ministry every so often. How long depends on what is worked out but there should be something in place that allows for periods of rest.

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*All these surveys are of Protestant pastors from a variety of denominations in America: (1) David Ross and Rick Blackmon’s “Soul Care for Servants” workshop reported the results of their Fuller Institute of Church Growth research study in 1991 and other surveys in 2005 and 2006. (2) Francis A Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development research studies in 1998 and 2006. (3) Leadership Magazine’s research for their article on “Marriage Problems Pastors Face,” Fall 1992 issue. (4) Grey Matter Research, 2005 scientific study of pastors from every city in America. (5) Pastors at Greater Risk by H.B. London and Neil B. Wiseman, Regal Books, 2003. (6) Focus on the Family 2009 survey of 2,000 pastors. (7) Leadership Journal poll of readers, 2013.

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