The Dual Nature of Life as a Pastor

This piece was written by Rev. Dr. Darrell Zimmerman, Chairman, Ministerial Health Committee

Explain this for me, if you can.

According to research from the Barna Group (Pastors: 2018) and others who dig deep into what’s going on with clergy, pastors have one of the highest rates of satisfaction among all professions, but also report the greatest amount of stress related problems.  Huh?  If you have a job that causes so much anxiety, why do you love it so much?  Explain that!

Pastors report levels of stress related illness at rates significantly higher than the national average.  They also report mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, relational issues such as not enough time with spouse and children and financial stress way out of line with their level of education and hours of work, all directly related to their calling.  So why do Pastors consistently say they love their work and find it so rewarding?

I’m sure you already know.  Dr. Walther suggested that the angels, if capable of it, would be jealous of all who get to share the love of Jesus with those who don’t know Him (see the 27th Evening Lecture).

The issue here is whether or not the Pastor is aware of the toll that the ministry lifestyle can take on his health, his family life, his emotions, his finances and even his spiritual life if he’s not attentive to his own personal, human (very human) needs.  Not long ago, a young pastor shared with me his crazy schedule and asked me if I thought he was trying to do too much.

I suggested he ask his wife.  I sometimes wonder how that conversation went.

In the movie “A League of Their Own,” manager Tom Hanks asked Geena Davis, the star catcher, why she was quitting the baseball team.  She said, “It just got too hard.”  With his teeth clenched together, Hanks looked her in the eye and said in a low, but very stern voice, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard anybody could do it.  It’s the hard that makes it great.”

I often think that’s a pretty good description of ministry.

Ballplayers learn how to take care of themselves so that they’ll be at their best on the playing field.  It works that way in ministry, too.  It’s hard, but it’s great.  We need you on the team and we want you at your best.  Keep the satisfaction high, but work on lowering the stress.  Remember that self-care is not selfish, it’s just good stewardship.

God bless you in your continued service in the Lord’s kingdom.

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