There’s More to the “Pastor Burnout” Syndrome

This blog has been dormant for a couple years now.  Honestly, I think I just ran out of things to say and felt the pressure of a self-imposed schedule.  But a thought came to me recently that I felt needed to be said, dots that need to be connected.

I’ve been reading a lot recently about a couple high-profile pastors calling it quits due to burnout.  Every article I’ve read describes the rigors of vocational church leadership, issues some warnings, and offers a series of To-Do’s.  These are mostly true and practically helpful, but in my view are missing the larger picture of what is happening.  Actually, I think they’re not missing it at all…they just don’t want to talk about it.

Remember over a year ago when a Pew Research report surfaced, highlighting the demise of the American Christian Church?  “The rise of the ‘Nones'” to the church-world is just as dreaded as “Rise of the Sith.”  Actually, things aren’t all that bad for World Christianity, but our Americentric Gospel can’t really focus on that right now…we need to talk about us.  So what is really happening to us?  Is this really the end?

These questions were life-or-death for both of my small churches in the recent past.  One of them thought they might close their doors when a strong leader brought them out of the depths.  When I began serving as their pastor 5 years later, I shared that role with another church a few miles away.  This other congregation, before my arrival, also wondered if their church would die.  In my interview, it was highlighted that a couple mega-churches in the area had essentially gobbled up all the potential new members they might gain, as well as some of the old ones looking for something better.  In their eyes, large churches were the team to beat.

Large churches do a lot of things well.  Their numbers are impressive and there is always something to be learned for how an entity can speak into the hearts and lives of people so profoundly.  But large churches and their pastors are feeling the pressure too.  Are they even remotely close to dying?  No, but rest assured they’re concerned about a percentage point drop in attendance or a few less baptisms than the year before.  The pressure to uphold their gold standard produces a similar drive as dying churches: We must save our entity.   

Nobody has to drive very far to attend a church.  In many places there’s still a church on every corner, evidence of Christianity’s once prominent place in American society.  But you will never hear a church advertisement inviting you to attend the church closest to you to hear about Jesus.  No, you must attend their church because there’s something different about their church.  They’re not like the rest.  Every church will tell you that their mission is to “make disciples” or “connect people with Jesus,” but nobody’s really honest that much of their decisions are based on growing their entity.  Small churches do it because they don’t want their beloved church to die, large churches do it because they can’t stomach decline.  The insecurity around growing a brand of church is palpable.  Tactics grow more desperate, more outlandish, just to get someone’s attention.  Satellite campuses just happen to pop up in wealthier areas.  Clergy sensationalize a church’s program on Facebook.

I’m not a businessy person, but I’ve learned from watching The Profit to know that the lower a market the higher the competition, and the higher the competition the higher the pressure.  Even Marcus Lemonis and the Shark Tank gurus won’t invest in a company if they feel like the market is low.  Now, I think the market is always high on Jesus, but the research suggests something different for religious institutions, or what unchurched people call “organized religion.”  Religious institutions, big and small, denominational or non-denominational are feeling the tightened market.  And the pressure to maintain existence for small churches, or the arbitrary success for large churches, is choking out even its modern-day heroes.

Why did Pete Wilson and Perry Noble resign?  Is it really because they didn’t honor their day off or take enough vacation?  I’m betting that they asked themselves a question that all of these “nones” asked themselves at one point…a question I and others have been secretly asking: Where is Jesus in all this church activity?

 

There’s More to the “Pastor Burnout” Syndrome

How Bold Should My Resolutions Be?

Setting New Year’s resolutions is a nice tradition, but for the futuristic optimist like myself…it’s critical.  A quick, sad reflection of the past gets swept under the rug, and then it’s all about the rainbows and unicorns of New Year’s possibilities.  In fact there’s so much investment, I have the compulsion each new year to be a little kind to myself and throw in some softballs.  Example: anytime I use the word ‘continue’ in a resolution.

2015 New Year’s Resolution: Continue being nice to my wife.🙂

Why not?  I like what I’m doing, it’s proven I can do it, and it eases the pressure a bit.

Resolutions’ bad rep isn’t exactly undeserving.  They fail…a lot.  Researchers have had a lot of fun trying to figure out why, and here seems to be one of the favorites:

Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obsesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions. —Phychology Today

This makes total sense to me, but eliminating a goal because it seems unrealistic feels like coping out.  When it comes to dreams, goals, and resolutions, it’s go big or go home…right?  il_fullxfull.629026288_fnmhWhy would I dream small?  And doesn’t this approach feel like walking on egg shells?  We don’t want to upset our fragile little dreams because failure never helps us, but only makes us depressed and less secure.  But on the other hand, the whole “dream big” mantra IS a bit kitschy.  Any spokes person for taking big risks also seems to have pretty sizable safety nets.

Still, I’m just not comfortable with my life running on fear.  And failure?  Well everybody does it.  In fact most of my personal growth, knowledge, wisdom, etc. has come as a direct result of failure.  That’s not so bad I guess.

So yes, my head may be in the clouds at times and my resolutions a bit out of my league, but I think I’ll be better as a result.  Don’t you?

How Bold Should My Resolutions Be?

Does It Even Matter If You Care?

A lot of my friends like to poke fun at one another.  Let just say that some are better than others (me…not so good).  One of my brothers in church reminded me in a passing comment that poking fun isn’t a mark of dislike.  In fact, just the opposite.  They true mark of dislike is disinterest.

And it hurts.

Brene Brown says as much in her book Daring Greatly.  It harms our sense of worthiness and confidence when people give all the signs that they don’t care, or that you’re not worth their time.  Now, we can’t give everyone the time of day; and Brown is clear that this sort of thing is bound to happen.  And so we need to figure out how to be resilient despite our hurt.  Still, I think we all can work on caring a little bit more.

In a sermon Adam Hamilton talks about how he joined a panel of religious leaders to discuss the threat of religious fundamentalism.  He responded by saying that he’s not too concerned about the Christian extremists, because their hate is so contrary to Jesus that it’s bound to reveal itself.  What he is concerned about is religious indifference.

My point in writing this was not to convince you to become a Christian (although we can talk about that).  My point is to challenge you to consider the weight of your attention and care — to people and yes, to God.  You may not think so, but it’s actually a big deal.

Does It Even Matter If You Care?

Why So Negative?

“It’ll take 10 ‘attaboy’s’ to make up for one demeaning comment,” Dr. Phil used to say.  Yes, I used to watch Dr. Phil…whatevs.  Our words, to say the least, can be powerfully damaging.

And I have found that sometimes (ok, oftentimes) harping on the negative comes much more naturally than celebrating the positive.  You know what I’m talking about.  How many times have you been able to identify a problem with no clue as to how to solve it?  Or how many times have you allowed that one biting remark cloud out the admiration of many?  Why does the News make more money on the Bad and not the Good?  Why does it seem so easy to focus on the negative?

Perhaps we’re more fragile than we think.  Or maybe the ways the world are deceivingly strong?  Or maybe both.  Either way, it’s only my perception.  I know the positive is there.  The beautiful is there.  Love is there.  God is there.  It’s all there…but will I see it?

Why So Negative?

How Do We Deal With Our Pace-of-Life?

After returning from a week long in Haiti, I got mad.  No, not mad at my family…mad at my life.  Mad at this whirlwind-crazy life.  I returned Friday night around midnight and was met with a slew of to-do’s on Saturday.  The day went by with little consideration, little impact, little meaning.

In Haiti it was different.  Meals took longer, so we had to wait around for them to be finished.  Rain shut a whole city down and built in considerable downtime.  Because of the lack of electricity, everything closed at dark.  The pace of life was slower…and wonderful.

One of our interpreters had recently been in the US.  “What was your first reaction?” we asked him.  The answer?  “Everyone in the US is soooo busy,” he told us.  He said it with a smile, but it was an indictment for sure.

How do we escape the rushing rapids of this society?  I really have little answers, but feel its affects.

How Do We Deal With Our Pace-of-Life?

The Latest from Rick Wolcott on our Haiti trip!

Check out what Rick says next about our mission in Haiti.

http://eoccom.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/day-2-in-haiti-rain-rain-go-away/

“Before leaving for Haiti I had been watching the weather forecast for the region and I didn’t like what I was seeing. The mid to upper 80 degree temperatures were fine but the rain wasn’t.

When we arrived yesterday I was pleased to see blue sky and sunshine. Well, that didn’t last long!

There was heavy rain through most of last night, it rained on and off during church this morning and we just had a torrential storm – none of which cooled us off, but instead just increased the humidity.

This is the start of rainy season so I fear the forecast may have been correct – rain all week. I am curious to see how the weather will affect any of our plans because the roadways we take into the mountains are not the greatest I am told – actually, using term “road” is probably generous if they are anything like many that we took in West Africa last year.”

The Latest from Rick Wolcott on our Haiti trip!

Bonswa! Koman ou ye? Communications director, Rick Wolcott blogging from Haiti

Why blog when someone on your team does it better!

EOC Communications

Bonswa! Koman ou ye?

For those of you not fluent in Creole (which includes me J), that means “Good evening! How are you?”

I am writing tonight from Cap Haitien, the second-largest city in Haiti. I arrived this afternoon with Rev. Erik Marshall and six of his parishioners from Church of the Saviour (North Coast District) in Cleveland Heights.

Erik taught school in Haiti for three years between college and seminary. Since arriving at Church of the Saviour (COTS) as Pastor of Global and Community Outreach, he has made four trips back to Haiti.

In May when I was asked by Erik to be part of the team for this trip he told me the goal was “to build relationships to assist the ongoing mission of community development in the Dondon area.” Erik explained that, “We no longer work on construction, as many mission trips do, because it takes work…

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