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Scott Crouchenour over at Serving Strong has a great article on how to avoid ministry burnout and stay strong. I’m thinking… It’s Monday… and I bet that there are a good number reading this today that feel burned out.  See if Scott can help guide you through some remedies… I’ll give you the first two here… you can get the last three over at Scott’s Serving Strong website:
  • Seek Unforgiveness. Someone hurt you lately? Cool. Here’s what you do: Hold a grudge. That’s right. Don’t give in to the temptation to be the weaker one. Keep steady. Better yet, give them the silent treatment. Yeah! It will teach them a lesson and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.
  • Pursue Passionlessness. Ask yourself this question: “What ministry fuels my passion?” Got your answer? Good. Now do something (anything) that is the opposite of your answer. Do the thing that is a total drag for you. Give it your all. Seek the boredom. Revel in the difficulty. It will annoy those around you and you’ll be well on your way to burning out. You can read the other three here… Any thoughts or comments on how you’ve avoided (or gotten yourself out of) burnout?

“You’re a high-risk candidate for career burnout, warns the Mayo Clinic, if you are in a helping profession; identify so strongly with your work that you lack a reasonable balance between your work life and personal life; and try to be everything to everyone. Hmm … sounds a like lot pastoring.” Read more: Ministry Burnout (Part 1): Examining the Threat Read more: Ministry Burnout (Part 2): The Signs and the Cure Read more: Ministry Burnout (Part 3): An Ounce of Prevention

A United Church of Christ pastor, G. Jeffrew MacDonald, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times over the weekend that he entitled “Congregations Gone Wild”  Here’s part of what he says…

THE American clergy is suffering from burnout, several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.

The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.

MacDonald then goes on to describe what he considers ‘consumer-driven religion’ as something that has completely rewritten the job description of many pastors.  He says:  “They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly.” I clearly don’t run in the United Church of Christ circles, abut I find MacDonald’s assessment of the ‘consumer-driven’ church to be a little off-base. If anything, I don’t find these trends to be ‘consumer-driven’ but rather ‘pastor-driven’. Starting back with the old Willow “seeker sensitive’ style of worship service, emphasis shifted to make the worship experience more palatable, not necessarily for the believer, but for the unbeliever.  Music, message topics… literally everything was turned upside down in order to reach a target audience.  Some still argue that that in the rush to be more relevant, the gospel was watered down.  Of course, Willow has since changed its strategy because of a number of reasons.  (and we could debate the whole SS movement all day long).  But my point:  this wasn’t consumer driven. It was pastor-driven. In fact, many of the church’s that I have the opportunity to work with that are really kickin’ it are FAR from consumer driven.  They are staff and lead pastor driven.  Services are crafted, not by what Jill or Jane in the pew wants to hear; but rather by what the leadership feels will make the greatest impact on their lives; and what will communicate the gospel in the most powerful and dramatic way. The pastors of these types of churches, while they have the contemporary (whatever that means) music and flashing lights, do NOT want to lull people with what they want to hear, or to soothe or entertain anyone.  Not by any means. MacDonald bases his feelings on an experience that happened to him.  The advisory committee of his small congregation in Massachusetts toldhim  to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else. This may be the norm in his circle of churches, but it’s just not something I hear happening often in the churches I’m familiar with. In fact, I find most church members to be rather apathetic and complacent.  Unless the sermons are REALLY bad or REALLY long, they don’t make much of a fuss on worship content.  They will make a fuss over other miniscule things that allow them power though:  things like finances and facilities. I’ll be the first to admit… I’ve seen a few congregations that have gone wild.  But in each and every case I know, it’s been because of the pastors or leadership, rather than the congregation. You can read all of MacDonald’s op-ed here. What do you think?  Are the trends in today’s church consumer-driven or pastor-driven?  I’d love to hear your thoughts… Todd