The burn out rate for those in the ministry is increasing (understatement?) While I don't really have the actual statistics and data to back up my assessment, I'm sure it's out there somewhere for those who need a hard number as a point of reference. I don't bring this up to be discouraging or negative. I am also not hopeless for the state of the church. Scripture has already spoken to this deficiency and is pretty clear, "the workers are few."
So when I hear or read another person who has left the ministry or walked away, a part of me really wonders what happened? Why? Especially if it is a church they planted. I'm like, what changed? Did you do this, try this, consider this before walking away? Then the other part of me goes, sigh..... Sad but I understand all to well "what happened" and my heart aches with exhaustion and heaviness for them. I deeply empathize and really do understand. Ministry is rewarding but incredibly hard at the same time. And this is so crucial as to why we should not judge one another but we pray for each other. We should be slow to criticize and place unrealistic expectations on our leaders and one another. There are so many intricate factors and facets involved and simply put, while vocational ministry is a high calling many courageously choose, it does not dampen the painfully tense and stressful aspects. And I would dare also say "doing ministry" today is perhaps even "harder" than before as social media has imploded.
This is not an all inclusive post but because I have a shepherds heart, I'm burdened for the burn out rate not necessarily because it "lessens" the number of workers but because soul care is so near to me. How are we doing? How is this impacting our view of God? How are we spiritually? And as a pastors wife too, my heart is deeply moved and burdened for leaders, particularly the spouse of the ministry leader, lead pastor, etc. and their kids. I am deeply concerned for their personal well being, spiritual health and their family life and marriage. So much so that I am actively praying and asking God how can I help? How can I encourage? How can I be a safe place for these servants to come as they are, away from the "crowd" to find rest for their soul and nourishment to go back out and continue to fight. I long to hear their stories and provide a place and space for them to feel heard and seen without shame, fear or worry. I desire to create an environment where they can "lay their armor down" and simply be. I wan to create space for them to be cared back to full strength. I want to bridge the gap between the extremes some leaders feel are their only options - suicide or leave the ministry all together.
Yes, I do believe in seasons. I also believe that "ministry" and serving God does not only look like someone who is employed by the church as a "pastor." I also know that the burn out rate in general - for those in vocational ministry and those who are lay minsters or servants, volunteers are also on the rise as well. For sure there is a varied reason for all of that but here's my point, we need to support one another. We need a network for leaders to connect - as peers, friends, brothers/sisters. We need friends!
What are the solutions or fix? No quick fix but compassion and empathy is an excellent start. Authentic, sincere and genuine care and active listening is always a great starting point. Praying for our churches, leaders and pastors is a way to bridge heaven and earth and God's resources and provisions to the people who are in need. Opening our eyes to SEE people... that's a start. So many look but don't see. May we be people who look, see and then are moved to loving action. You never know that act of kindness, that word of encouragement or that gift could do for that person and for yourself. It could change the course of someone's life.