Burnout is an insidious problem for leaders and particularly in certain industries. High people-contact roles with big expectations, limited resources and restrictions on roles can understandably produce emotional exhaustion and diminished performance. It is alarming to think that this blend of factors might make church leaders a particularly susceptible group, when churches promote hope and healing to others. However, there are fascinating insights to the problem which allow it to be minimised significantly.
Burnout is a problem to some degree for four out of five church leaders, according to 2001 research from Kaldor and Bullpitt, but far less so for older ministers. A strongly develop sense of calling, that can withstand the storms of life (such as those connected with child-rearing and mortgage stress) is vital for longevity as, of course, is good personal and congregational health.
This study has also shown that denominational structures allowing greater freedoms reduce burnout, too, with Pentecostal churches an example of those seeing lower burnout rates, on average. More significantly for these churches, perhaps, is that burnout is lower in leaders who pray regularly, especially in tongues, and for those experiencing God in worship. In addition, belief that the Bible is the literal Word of God, by people with fewer faith doubts, is significantly likely to reduce burnout.
Those talking to people about problems, especially to denominational leaders, are less likely to burn out, as are those whose congregations are actively engaged in mission-based activities.
And, as for personal study, burnout is lowest among those with no training or with doctorates, which goes to show, as the saying goes, that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!