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Father, we lift up our priests and pastors before You. Comfort them, strengthen them, and encourage them as they struggle in their ministries, God. Remind them of why You called them to their positions in the first place.

Analysis. We’re only a few weeks away from Pastor Appreciation Month, so this is a good time to sound the alert on behalf of America’s pastors. The burnout rate among clergy in the U.S. is skyrocketing, according to an article that appeared on Fox News last Friday, Sept. 8. The article cited a report by Barna Research from a few months earlier that showed a dramatic rise in the number of pastors who considered quitting the full-time ministry during the past year: from 29% in 2021 to 43% now. That means we’re creeping up on a situation in which half of America’s pastors are giving serious thought to leaving the ministry for good.

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Such serious consideration to quitting the ministry for good is a tell-tale sign of pastoral burnout. The question is: Why? The Barna report lists stress, loneliness, and political divisions as the main causes. Pastoral burnout is, of itself, nothing new. It is a major pitfall of the type of self-sacrificial ministry that is often expected from pastors. According to pastoralcareinc.com, stress causes depletion of physical energy, which is not abnormal for any type of demanding work. Burnout occurs when stress engulfs the whole person and has become too much to handle. The result is a complete depletion of emotional, physical, and mental energy, along with a decrease in motivation and drive. Hence the desire to quit.

Let me begin with the first major reason given for burnout: stress. Pastors have had to cope with a lot more than ongoing congregational care, which is already stressful, during the past few years. Covid forced them to suddenly rethink and adapt to new ways of doing church. Many small church pastors did not have the technical capacity to move services online and were forced to shut their congregations down for a period of time, or permanently. According to The Christian Post, one in five churches faced closing when the pandemic first broke out. That number declined as restrictions eased, but many pastors had to go from fulltime ministry to being bi-vocational to survive financially. That meant working two jobs at the same time. Not to mention the fact that in some states, pastors bore the brunt of government overreach, putting them at risk for fines and even arrests.  All that came on top of the stress they were already facing.

Then there is loneliness. It is hard to determine sometimes where stress ends and loneliness begins, or vice-versa. I have had the privilege of serving as a pastor and of facilitating Pastors’ Prayer Summits, where pastors could come together to bear one another’s burdens and unload those together before the Lord, so I speak from some personal experience here. Why is loneliness so high on the list? According to Influence Magazine, pastors are lonely because they feel they can’t connect with church members for fear of being perceived as playing favorites. On top of that, it is difficult to confide in a church member what your hurts and struggles are, because most don’t understand, and many would struggle with the fact that the pastor has issues. Some are fortunate to have ministry peers to confide in, but many don’t and end up ministering in almost complete isolation. I have heard their heartaches expressed in anguished prayer during prayer gatherings where they were among peers. I have felt that burden, ministering in a small church in a small town with very little peer support.

The political division is the next major cause for pastoral burnout. From several of the comments cited in the aforementioned Fox News article, it appears that the pandemic and the economic and political upheavals of the past couple of years have brought politics and how they affect Christian living more to the foreground of discussion in the church than they used to be. Pastors were suddenly expected to advise on these matters, and often ill-equipped or unprepared to do so. Rifts and tensions began to increase as church members’ opinions clashed, in particular over whether a congregation should comply with Covid restrictions, mask mandates, vaccines, and other measures. The pandemic marked the first time since I have been in the ministry in the U.S. that government mandates affected churches, and it had the unforeseen effect of bringing political discussions to greater prominence, with tension and divisiveness in their wake.

All this to say that America’s pastors have come under great duress. I believe with all my heart that this pressure is something that God is allowing as part of several shifts that are changing the paradigms of how we have been doing church up till now.

The biblical model is that “clergy,” the teacher/pastors, shepherd, prophets, evangelists, and apostles, vocational or bi-vocational, are God’s gifts to equip the saints to do the ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-16). This model implies that a congregation as a whole is responsible for its ministry, under the assumption that all have received gifts of the Spirit to do so. However, that is not the reality in most churches. They have long suffered under the “80/20, or Pareto Principle” according to which 80% of the work is being done by 20% of the people. Increasingly, pastors are being regarded as the CEO of the church with a hired staff to perform the ministry (to the degree the congregation can afford it). That approach turns believers into consumers, rather than servants, and leaves their Spirit-given gifts undiscovered and unused. Could it be that the alarming trend uncovered by Barna Research is being used by God to return churches to their biblical design? Surely it must grieve the Holy Spirit that the people in whom He dwells do not know the gifts He has apportioned them or leave them unused.

Whether or not the sharp increase in pastors thinking about leaving the ministry could produce lasting and positive change in church culture that relies too heavily on professional ministers remains to be seen. What concerns us today is the great pressure our shepherds are under and their alarmingly high burnout rate, and we should turn that concern into fervent prayer for them.

“Father, we pause and pray for our nation’s pastors today. Thank You for raising them up, guiding them through rigorous training, and appointing them to care for our spiritual and emotional health. We confess that all too often we have placed burdens and expectations on them and their families, leading many of them to consider giving up. We ask that You reveal yourself to them and help them protect their daily love relationship with You, as well as their family life. We pray for a paradigm shift in every church and congregation, away from reliance on professionals and back to Your design laid out in the Scriptures. We pray for a new impetus to discover both the gifting and the empowerment that the Holy Spirit has placed within every believer, and for a collective sense of responsibility for the ministries of every church, so that pastors may return to what You have appointed them to do. Bring into their lives friendships with people who understand their burdens and can help carry them, and help congregations understand how to best support their pastors and their families. We pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit, You bring about a reversal in the trend toward pastoral burnout.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Post your own prayers and scriptures for the clergy below. And share this article with other members of your church . . . stir them to pray for your pastor(s).

Author Remco Brommet is a pastor, spiritual growth teacher, and prayer leader with over 40 years’ experience in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S. Born and raised in the Netherlands and having pastored his first church in Amsterdam, he moved to the U.S. in 1986. He and his wife, Jennifer, live north of Atlanta. When not writing books, he blogs and assists his wife as content developer and prayer coordinator for True Identity Ministries. Jennifer and Remco are passionate about bringing people into a deeper relationship with Christ. Photo Credit: Canva.

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Gayle Robinson Snyder
September 15, 2022

As mentioned the purpose of the five-fold ministry is to train up the body of Christ to do the work of ministry it is NOT for a handful of “professional” Christians to do it all while the majority of the congregation is relegated to being spectators. Additionally, the calling of “pastor” is not the same as the calling of “teacher” yet, being able to teach a good sermon is probably at the top of every church’s list when they look for a pastor. Pastors should be allow to care for the sheep (counseling, discipleship, enabling people to find and practice their gifts) without being required to teach; teachers should be allowed to teach without being required to be pastors; administrators should be allowed to administer without being required to pastor or teach. If everyone in the body was both ALLOWED to use their gifts and not REQUIRED to be things they are not the body would be much healthier and more effective.

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Sheryl Boyd
September 13, 2022

Thank you, Pastor Remco for this article. It says a lot.

I appreciate your insight as it applies to equipping the saints and the reality that the gifts of The Holy Spirit may be unrealized or even unused.

I read a lead in to a commentary today in The Daily Signal that Queen Elizabeth’s death “is the symbolic end of the greatest generation.” I would have to agree in that I still have family members and friends who are up in that age range and are in total disbelief of where we are in this country.

As I consider all of the above, I do see the possibility for some hope. The OT frequently refers to the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow. (We all may fall into one or more of these categories literally, spiritually or otherwise.) However, it has been persistently placed upon my heart the dilemma of fellow widows and how to help them find purpose and meaning while learning to get beyond a turn of life’s circumstances. Some young, some older, some live in nursing homes and some in assisted living facilities. But, something we can all do is pray. I would be speaking, specifically, of orchestrated prayer, with purpose. Billye Brim has used he term “prayer force.” How many of our senior citizens are no longer mobile, yet still viable? But they can still pray. They have seen and experienced so much in their lives, yet we lose these precious resources every day.

With respect to those who have gone before us.

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Andrea Meador
September 13, 2022

I am fortunate to have grown up in a family that this is what my Dad did. He started Marble Retreat in 1974 to counsel pastors, missionaries and their spouses who were in crisis in their ministry and/or marriage. https://marbleretreat.org
Another good resource is this book by Dr. Michael MacKenzie: https://smile.amazon.com/Dont-Blow-Your-Ministry-Underlying-ebook/dp/B092Q2R6HT/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MEDFNN1XUH5O&keywords=don%27t+blow+up+your+ministry&qid=1663112877&sprefix=don%27t+blow+%2Caps%2C119&sr=8-1

Dr. MacKenzie was a counselor at Marble Retreat for about 10 years, and now serves as our Executive Director.

Pray for your pastors!!!!

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Linda k Rice
September 13, 2022

I wonder how the persecuted Church handles stress. What we have is nothing compared to them.

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Gail Wood
September 13, 2022

I come from a long line of Baptist Pastors. Many years ago it was easier to be a Pastor and live that life because we were not faced with things such as drugs , abortion and trafficking , witchcraft and Satanism etc…
Most families were Christians and the entire family attended Church and children were raised in the Lord and to respect their parents and others.
Today there are cliques in Church’s and Pastors are having to deal with all the horrors listed above.
Pastors used to preach hellfire and damnation which used to scare us kids so much but it also kept us grounded and we had a sturdy foundation.
Pastors today , many are afraid to speak out against topics such as abortion , homosexuality etc… For fear of offending their members because so many women have had or know someone who has had an abortion.
Members know or have family members who are practicing gays.
What is a Pastor to do ?
I wanted to be a Pastor but it came too late so I allow God to use me in other ways to minister. We need strong and determined men and women of God to get behind the podium and allow God to speak through them thus fulfilling the word if the Lord to go forth and evangelize.
I don’t know how Pastors feel but I suspect that many are feeling uncertain,overwhelmed and afraid because they are too intimidated to say what is truly in their hearts.
I can only pray Father that you would deal with the Pastors , Priest and Rabbis and give them the boldness we are supposed to pray for. Father they and us need more boldness in order to carry out your will and to stop
being so intimidated when we speak out and take a stand against evil.
Father we pray for all Pastors , Preist and Rabbis that you would pour Your Spirit upon us all who are called by your name. Make us to be as courageous and bold as a lion and as gentle as a dove as we walk each day out in you.
Father God touch the hearts of our Spiritual Leaders and show them what to say when they minister. Bring them a cohesive group of Church members to support them emotionally and to have their backs.
Thank You Father ,
In Jesus Holy Name
Amen

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Jacqueline L
September 13, 2022

We decree that no weapons formed against our pastors their health, family or ministry will prosper. Amen.

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Karla Bitting
September 13, 2022

If there are any pastors reading this message and would like to attend Pastor training classes that help you be more effective in your message. Check out: LibertyPastors.org
The pastors at my church have conferences that have helped so many. The Black Robe Regiment presentation and Boot Camp. Please check it out. Over 1000 pastors have been through it and give rave reviews.

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Darlene Estlow
September 13, 2022

Father, may we be faithful to lift up our pastors and their families. Bring people into their lives that can refresh and help them. Give them Aarons and Hurs to hold up their hands as you gave Aaron and Hur to Moses to hold up Moses’ arms during the battle.

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Preet Sanders
September 13, 2022

Praise the Lord for our Senior Pastor at Grace Community Church in Arlington, Texas. He is so faithful to the Lord, full of integrity, and teaches God’s Word uncompromisingly every Sunday for over 30 years. We, as a congregation are truly blessed and grateful to God for Pastor Gary.

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Jeffrey
September 13, 2022

Blessed is the pastor whose church hungers for the truth and welcomes the message of God’s Holy Word regardless of the state of the culture.

I’m not a psychologist, but the stress of preaching to a stubborn, grumbling congregation Day in and day out, would obviously be very difficult. The book of Jeremiah reveals this well. And that, notwithstanding the inner turmoil of knowing the truth and holding it back. For a prophet of God (i.e., the Christian called to preach/teach), that would be like not exhaling.

Gracious Father, thank you for your church and your steadfast love and presence. Even as you purge your pulpits of those unwilling to stand with you, I pray for the members of your faithful body to encourage their pastors/teachers to boldly release your truth, as written. Rise up influential voices in every congregation to demand that the Pastors/Teachers release the truth of your Holy Word, in Jesus’ name. Amen

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Frank Pisut
September 13, 2022

I salute Pastor Ted Soderholm for the excellent job he is doing for his Church, Catalina Church North in Tucson!

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Janet
September 13, 2022

Lord, You have blessed us with men and women who simply desire others to know you. And love you with all their hearts. Yet, they are thrust into the fleshly controversies of the culture and must take a stand. As matriarch of a big family myself, I understand in a small way that loneliness of not being understood by many. I pray for the Pastors whose whole heart is for Your Gospel to be preached that they will feel the love and support of their congregations. I pray that those who want to quit will be renewed by Your Holy Spirit and become the leaders against the evil being forced on this nation. May we all stand in the gap for them. I am convicted of not praying for them enough and ask forgiveness for expecting them to be perfect and righteous in my eyes. Lord, we are all your servants and priests. May we worship You together as the only One who is perfect in all Your Ways . Today I speak blessings over the pastors whose hearts are broken by what they face . Renew them Lord. Renew their spirits with Your Spirit. Amen.

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