When I do church consulting, I often encounter pastors who are just worn out, and often heading toward burnout. In my conversations with these leaders, I usually learn that the battle had been ongoing long before I arrived to consult. Indeed, some of the following signs seem to be recurrent among wearying shepherds.
- He doesn’t laugh like he used to. His joy that used to erupt in fun seems to have disappeared.
- He just looks tired. When you’re not resting well, it usually becomes evident at some point. Others begin to notice.
- His evangelistic and discipling illustrations are dated. That happens when you’re weary: you can tell only old stories because you’re too tired to live new ones.
- Preaching seems to be more a chore than a joy. His sermons lack fervor, and his joy in proclaiming the Word feels forced.
- He avoids the crowds. The pastor who used to mingle prior to and after the service, who enjoyed fellowshipping with his congregation, begins to retreat to his office more often.
- Illness is recurrent. Sickness can be a by-product of emotional and physical fatigue. It’s the body’s way of trying to get our attention.
- He talks about being worn out. Some pastors exaggerate their workload, but others are genuinely overwhelmed and weary – and their brief words are a cry for help.
- His family’s concerned about him. If you want to really know if your pastor’s exhausted, talk to his wife.
- He overreacts in unexpected ways. He formerly exhibited calm wisdom, but now he acts impulsively and unwisely. Burnout has a way of messing with your thinking.
- He withdraws from friends. Avoiding the crowds is one thing; creating distance from good friends is another level of concern.
If you’re a pastor walking in these shoes, talk to somebody today. Get a prayer partner to intercede for you. If you see these signs in your pastor, pray for him today and tomorrow. Pray for a fresh wind of God’s Spirit as he preaches this week.