Ministry burnout, overload, and destructive stress lead to an abysmal survival rate for pastors today. For 20 years a friend of mine followed 105 pastors and discovered that only half remained in ministry. Many other statistics bear witness to the high fallout rate for pastors. Burnout, moral collapse, and the weight of ministry has shattered many dreams for Kingdom impact.
No pastor ever begins ministry with a goal to end up as a casualty of it. Unfortunately, unless many make systemic changes to their hearts and ministry pace, they too will end up a statistic. But, if you feel yourself on the road to burnout you can change your trajectory through this simple yet life-transforming exercise.
As I begin my new role from serving as a senior pastor to serving other pastors through coaching them and consulting their churches, I’ve used a tool that many coaches use to help people regain balance. It’s called a “Life Balance Wheel.”
It had its origins in the Middle Ages when few could read. Etched on many cathedrals, it visually represented the cycle of daily life: happiness, loss, suffering, and hope. For most people life offered little hope and the carved images instructed the common person about the inevitable change process in life.
Today we use the life balance wheel in a more positive way. It takes many forms, but this example captures its essence.
If you are a pastor or lead people in any way, criticism is a fact of life. We can learn from our critics or we can turn criticism into carnage.
Here are five ways to do that.
Cut yourself off from everybody who criticizes you. Stay far, far away from them. They are idiots so avoid them at all costs
Believe every criticism. It’s all true, every juicy morsel of it. Believe every word of it. Make it personal. Think about it all the time.
If you follow my blog, you know I love to read. As a life-long learner I learn from others’ writings and I believe integrous writers should always give generous attribution to authors whose ideas they embrace or write about. That’s why I often reference my ideas. Recently I read Do More Great Work by Michael Stanier. It’s a short but good read.
Stanier takes the reader through simple exercises that helps him clarify when he is at his best. In my case, I read the book with an eye to discover when I lead at my best. This is especially important in my life now as I transition from a senior pastor role into a coach/consultant role for pastors and churches.
In one exercise I spent a few minutes choosing words that best describe me when I am at my best. For example, some of those words included poised, reflective, and focused. The next step, however, make this exercise stick. After I picked about 20 words and narrowed them to a dozen or so I then wrote opposite each word another contrasting word that would describe me when I’m not quite myself. I didn’t necessarily choose words opposite in meaning but ones more anemic in contrast to the others. Oppose to the three words above I chose diplomatic, distant, and intense.
When I chose the contrasting words it helped clarify my leadership vibe, that state of leadership toward which I should aim.
Here’s the list that contrasts when I’m at my best (on the left) and when I’m just ok (to the right).
I sat next to a brilliant PhD at a recent men’s breakfast and he made an insightful statement that struck a chord with me.
We chatted about the master’s degree I’m pursuing in neuroleadership and about his shift from chemistry to software development. During that conversation I felt prompted to ask him if he was an introvert. He responded with a quick, “Definitely.” After I suggested he read the book Quiet, the Power of Introverts
he responded with, “Oh yea. I’ve heard about that on NPR. I’ll have to get it.”
As we finished our bacon and pancakes we talking about what it was like being an introvert (we both qualify). Then he made this striking statement.
I think extroverts think introverts should be like them.
I paused a moment and then exclaimed, “Yea, you’re right. They do.” Something inside my subconscious immediately resonated with his statement. We didn’t have long to unpack his thought, but the more I mulled over it the more it made sense.
The idea probably lacks scientific basis and is anecdotal at best, but it seems to ring true. As an introverted pastor, yet with good people skills, occasionally I’ve felt subtle pressure from extroverted leaders to become more extroverted.
But the dynamic goes both ways as well. I admit that I’ve also wished I were more extroverted at times. So, could this corollary be true?
Or, maybe they do.
I’m a pastor and an introvert.
I get energy from being alone.
Being with people for long periods of time drains me, although I have strong people skills.
I love to read.
I go on silent retreats.
After church Sunday I want to go home
Did I say I am an introvert?
Am I automatically disadvantaged as a pastor? Do only the gregarious, back slapping pastors lead big churches?
Some years ago I learned that my introversion offended a church leader where I once served. We held an overnight leadership retreat at a local retreat center. After the last session ended around nine, we provided snacks and games. At about ten, I went to bed as was my habit. Most of the other leaders stayed up past midnight. Had I stayed up with them, I would have been toast for the sessions to follow the next morning.