The Coming Pastoral Crash

I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, but as a minister in touch with many ministers, I see a coming pastoral crash. And I’m not sure we can stop it. The impact of the world response to COVID-19 will be felt for many years to come. It will be felt in every career field and in every home. This post does not diminish the hard work and adjustments being done by first responders, law enforcement, health care workers, and the educational structures. But from my perspective, those who serve in ministry are, in my thinking, in particular danger for several reasons.

They are serving in ways for which they have no training or experience. At first, this is energizing and sparks our creative thoughts. This energized feeling does not last, however. It is neither exciting for the minister nor the congregants after a month or so.

They are doing their best, but unable to keep it up. Frankly, it is draining. Ministers fall into the comparison trap. Some ministries were already online and have everything they need in place. Many of us, however, did not. We look at what other churches are producing and that makes our efforts feel not worth it.

They are worried about ministries that are unable to operate, and if they will be able to operate later. Some of the ministries that are very important such as support groups, specialized Bible classes (ladies, mens, teens), and Bible camps and retreats are unable to meet. The people who utilize those kinds of ministry need the support still, they are just unable to be in the same room together. Young people are missing out on the fellowship that can strengthen their young spiritual walk. The mental and physical health of our congregations is a huge concern.

They are exhausted. Less gathering does not equal less work. If a minister is worthy of his or her calling, they are not afraid of hard work. Some members might assume that since there are no current meetings at the church building the ministers have a lot of free time. When I talk to ministers, I get the opposite impression. They are doing things they are not accustomed to doing. There is an endless array of glitches when it comes to online ministry. More, the mind of a minister is constantly thinking about how to bless his people and community – and the response to COVID-19 makes this more difficult to navigate.

They are not feeding their souls. Perhaps some ultra self-disciplined ministers are growing during this season, but what I observe is that they are so involved in this new ministry model that they have no down time. One friend said that he thought during the ‘stay at home’ time he would read many books that he had on his ‘to read’ list. Not so.

The future is cloudy. Ministers would like to plan ahead, forecast a visionary approach to the work, and proceed with energized hopes. However, like everyone else, ministers do not know what happens the next day, much less the next five Sundays. Contingency plans can be made, but one never knows what the next steps ought to be. From everything I read, we are looking at resurgence of the virus in the Fall, and what one government official called a ‘long dark winter’.

The collapse of the job and financial markets impacts churches. No doubt churches will close, having reached the end of savings and not receiving enough income to go on. Most churches in America are less than 100 members, leaving them vulnerable to shutdowns, loss of jobs for ministers, and significant issues with debt. This weighs on ministry staff and can cause a great deal of stress.

They are physically not healthy. I don’t want to mention this, but it has been pointed out many times that many in ministry are overweight, stressed, do not exercise or observe a healthy diet. Additional stress in all the areas mentioned above will have a negative result on the minister’s health. Although there is a lot of humor being expressed about eating our way through the pandemic, that probably won’t feel funny in the ER.

They have conformed to a 7 day schedule. Ministers usually have one or two days “off” per week like most people. Also most ministers are self-reporting. There’s no one making sure they work as they are asked, nor demanding that they take their time off. Church leaders should urge their ministers to take their time off seriously. Now that the awareness of what day it is has been jumbled, many are working seven days a week and not taking any sabbath rest. This is leading to depression, exhaustion, and loss of heart for the work.

They are unwilling to take time off. How can a minister consider taking a week off during a pandemic? The idea of travel is just now becoming more of a possibility – but it still carries its risks. In addition, who is going to see that all the online stuff happens if the minister is out of pocket? I know ministers who were set to take sabbaticals, but instead are running on fumes, unable to get away. Congregational leadership is not doing itself any favors by expecting the ministry staff to run full steam ahead when they do not have any steam left.

They do not seek out mental health. Some years ago a well known pastor suggested that all ministers should see a therapist once a month. We spend significant time helping other people with their problems. Although the wisest of us refer those with mental health issues to a certified counselor, we still worry about others. And we do not take care of our own mental health. Since ministers are in a helping profession, they often do not see the need to receive help themselves. There is an attempt to minister out of the emptiness of the soul which I think will result in dangerous decisions and perspectives. The recent death of minister Darren Patrick may have been a result of pressures pre-COVID-19, but certainly the pandemic did not help matters.

They are in dangerous spiritual territory. Weakened and exhausted, temptations that once were not so strong have now grown irresistible. Coping with the stress of this situation by numbing the pain with drugs, alcohol, pornography, gluttony, excessive television … or anything to excess. Resistance is low to temptations that invade the minister’s private space.

I believe we are going to see the affects of this pandemic on the ministers in all denominations.

All of this leads me to conclude that there is a coming pastoral crash. And I don’t think we can stop it. Our pastoral care providers are maxed out. While some church members might think their preacher’s duties are relaxed, but it is actually the opposite. As we head into the coming months I believe we are going to see the affects of this pandemic on the ministers in all denominations.

I’m tempted to write out a list of things we need to do now to avoid the crash. There are many articles already available (see links below) offering strategies for good mental and physical health. But it’s hard to get preachers and ministry staff to slow down long enough to look in the mirror. It is equally hard to find church leaders who demand that their ministers slow down and get help. The impact of ministry job losses, minister burn outs, and ministry suicide is going to be a major event for the church to deal with in the coming year.

The best strategy I know

*Ministers must commit to ministering to their own hearts first. Engage in the spiritual disciplines, re-engage frayed family relationships, restart physical exercise and rest, or take time to rest and read non-work-related relaxing books. Whatever feeds your heart, you should do it. Now. If you are waiting for the pandemic to be over, you might not survive.

*Ministers must commit to look out for one another. To speak into the lives of those we perceive are growing weaker will be a means of rescue for them (and perhaps yourself). We know that congregational leaders simply do not know the ministerial life. They love their preachers, but they don’t live in the same world. Just as we do not live in the world of other occupations (which are facing their own crises). So, wherever you can be with other ministers and look out for one another, do so. Facebook groups, calls, emails, and now I think you can start to meet together observing social distancing…. reach out to your fellow ministers. Pray for and with one another.

I hope I’ve overstated the case, been a worry wart, and this post won’t age well. I hope in a year you’ll call me ‘chicken little’ worried about the sky falling. But I doubt it.

ADDENDUM: I could not have foreseen the impact of sharing these thoughts on my blog. I am grateful that most of you found value here, and I hope some encouragement in knowing you are not alone. I have updated the links with some of those shared in the comments. I thank you for sharing and talking about these issues we are facing now. Praying for peace and perception on how to honor God and love His people, one day at a time. Out here, hope remains. JED

Links

When A Pastor Commits Suicide by Kevin Carson

4 Ways to Refresh When Your Soul is Weary by Dan Reiland

The Pressure on Pastors During Covid-19 by Trevin Wax

How Do I Avoid Pastoral Burnout During Covid-19 by Garrett Kell

Positive Emotional Health in the Midst of Covid-19 by Tanaya Meaders

Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation Audio Helps

4 Steps to Cultivating Pastor Resilience by Jamie Aten & Kent Annan (Note list of links in this article)

On the Rise and Fall of Pastors by Scott Sauls

CDC Case Study on Church Outbreak

Reopening Resources accumulated by Dr. Carlus Gupton

Clergy/Spouse ER Resources

Surviving Ministry by Mike Osborne

The World of Pastoral and Spiritual Care

Care for Pastors

5 Keys to Refreshing Your Soul During COVID-19 by Brandon Kelley

94 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing and caring. I also see pastors burning out due to added stress during this pandemic. One other specific way ministers could share the load would be to share online sermons so pastors don’t have to preach every week, and retired ministers could offer some as well. There are also many ways to equip lay people to do more ministry (Eph. 4:12), such as making pastoral care phone calls. or leading small groups online.

  2. Fantastic sermon here in this and leaves us to do a lot of thinking. My prayers are for our Church and staff. Especially the Pastor, wife and children. We look to you to keep on leading us through these troubled times same as good times.
    I struggle with sadness that I don’t have much life left to live, but take it one day at a time and give my worries to God.. I want to see my Grans and great grans grow in the Lord. And for me to continue to grow in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to carry on. I could not live if I didn’t have Faith, Hope and what God has promised me.

  3. I feel your WORRIES are unfounded. The Bible teaches us to worry about nothing and pray for everything. We should be praying now more than ever for our pastors and all church staff as they deal with the trying times that we seem to be dealing with. As a music director I know first hand that it’s a difficult process to not be in the church and lead congregational hymns. One thing we have done as a congregation is to record hymns and donate the CDs to the truck stop in our little town here in Mansfield Arkansas as an out reach ministry. Who knows how many hearts we’ve touched during this time. We’ve donated many of the CDs now and now the staff at the truck stop is asking for more. I’m just glad to share Christ with these drivers that are working so hard to keep this country supplied with the goods that we so depend on. Truck drivers are not so appreciated as they should be and we should be praying for them as they work so many long hours to keep us supplied. The need to share the Gospel is still just as important as ever. We should not abandon our duty to share Christ with the world even if requires us to step out side our church buildings and focus on the new doors that have been opened before us. There are people that are hearing the Gospel for the first time because of the fact that so many pastors have expanded their ministries to online messages. We need to pray for the courageous pastors that have stepped into this unfamiliar territory. God bless them all for staying the course. Pray, Pray, Pray for them and their congratulations as they continually minister and share Christ to a lost and dying world. I believe that God is still in control and that He has opened the door for us to step out in Faith to do what He has called us to do. Keep the Faith and fight the good fight.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing, prayers for our church pastors, families and leaders!

  5. Wow…. so much negativity! Being a minister, I get it, but a lot of what was written is due to one’s personal choices while entertaining the thoughts, “I can’t do this!” John 10:10… the ENEMY comes to steal, kill, and destroy! God will not take you to something without providing the tools to be successful! Jeremiah 29:11…. what works for one church may not be what is needed or feasible in another!

    Now is NOT the time to throw in the towel as we are living in the last days! Kick yourself in the seat of the pants and make better choices, get on your knees and walk by faith redeeming the time as the fields are white unto harvest!! My people perish for lack of knowledge! Either you believe and live God’s Word or you don’t! The choice is yours!

  6. John: what a great article. Can I have your authorization to translate it to Spanish for our pastors’ network? You will be credited as the author.
    Thanks a lot.

    Javier Chavez
    Hispanic Representative
    Georgia Baptist Convention

  7. You NAILED IT! Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in this craziness! The most exciting times to live in and minister through in my 48 years of pastoral ministry, for sure. Fellow pastors, take heart–there is wisdom and there is great insight in this post.

  8. God called men and women ALWAYS face adversity. Adversity comes in many forms, new and old. The One who calls us also enables us…for anything. That is either true or false. We choose which answer by our own response. By the way, my experiential observation is that the “ministry” is filled with many well meaning, but not CALLED of God pastors. These individuals cannot endure the adversities that inevitably come in church ministry. And that will affect the people they pastor.

  9. The only thing I disagree with is your assumption that ministers “do not live in the world of other occupations”. There are many, many bi and tri vocational ministers who work secular jobs as well as pastoring small and/or rural churches without the income to support pastoring full time. This can also add to the stress (such is the case in my household) because they are out of work in this Covid crisis so the church is unable to help and the household has little or no income.

    Other than that, yes, I agree. It’s a sad reality we are facing.

  10. Yes, I think that could be true in so many areas. I hope pastors realize they are not alone. I look at the list of things and – I could be that too. I’m a teacher. As a collective whole, we might see burnout for some of the same things. Remember, our pastors as the same, just like us. But we do get a summer vacation and it is always most needed. I think we really need to find a way to give our pastors a vacation – let’s call it a stay-cation because of the situation. But it might be one thing we can actually do to help. And pray, of course.

  11. Good thoughts, all! As you note, the key is to be tending to your soul, from the git go. Pray. Study. Do fun stuff. Have friends and family for whom you unashamedly take time. So much of pastoral anxiety/burnout rises from an unwillingness to do less in ministry. Do. Less. Leave room for the Christian souls who are part of your community to rise into their giftedness.

    Having that supportive community of pastors helps, absolutely. But it also helps to be honestly, openly yourself with the souls in the community you serve. You are not a role, or an archetype. You are a flawed human person following Jesus as best you can. Pray for and with your leaders and your members. Be honest with them, as fellow disciples.

  12. Maybe the pastoral crash would be a good thing. The true saints may have to step up and do the work of the ministry, and the consumers will fall by the wayside. A new, different, real and authentic expression of the church may emerge.

  13. Ryan, You may be right, but I do not discount the work and service of those who have devoted their lives to the church and to serving God in the ministry.

  14. Thanks, David, I agree that some of what we are experiencing is because of a lack of self-discipline. But not all.

  15. My pastor shared your article with our deacons. It is very important that pastors and laymen be aware of the changes and the potential for pastoral distress.

    These are all real areas of concern. Each point has the potential to create a problem for the pastor and the church.

    Great article to raise awareness in these Covid-19 times. I for one, do not at all like our new normal, however you’d have to be foolish to think it’s business as usual.

    Our pastors, churches and lay leaders need to recognize that we’re no longer in Kansas.

    Thanks again!

  16. Thank you Jenny. I am very mindful of the struggles of my teaching friends and school administrators. It is uncharted territory for you as well. Thanks for your prayers and compassion for pastors.

  17. K. A., I have the greatest admiration for bi and tri vocational ministers – and especially in this current situation… bless you all.

  18. David, what you write is true. However, it is not very understanding of the situation in which we find ourselves. I think it’s true that some of us ‘feel’ this more than others. God bless.

  19. R. S., that’s what moved me to write this … so that other ministers would know they are not alone. This is an unprecedented situation and we’re all just doing our best. God bless you for a lifetime of ministry.

  20. John, I’ve never seen your blog before until today, but as a pastor of 22 years who is a year into recovery from some pretty significant burnout, I so appreciate your blog. After reading this article, I’ve been poking around the rest of it. I don’t even know who you are – you may be some uber famous dude, and I’ve just been living under a rock. But if you ever have time, I’d love to connect and collaborate. I am preparing to write a book on “after burnout” with a good friend. I am a lead pastor in the suburbs of Atlanta now. Thanks for your vulnerability on this blog. You are loved.

    P.S. – the website I entered below is a personal blog I started in the pit of burnout. I’m about to start process what happened during that time. Thought you might be interested.

  21. Cheryl, no one is talking about throwing in the towel. What you see as negativity I see as realism. A kick is NOT what we need right now. Thanks for responding.

  22. Jimmy, thanks for your thoughts. I do not consider myself worried, but realistically surveying the situation. Thanks for your prayers.

  23. Amen, Barbara. Thank you. Pastors are real people with real personalities and feelings.Great thoughts.

  24. Brad, thanks so much for your reply and your openness. No fame here! Maybe we can connect sometime soon. Thanks for your gracious reply.

  25. Henry, thanks for your gracious reply and for your service in the church. Every person is important, needed, and loved.

  26. Based on my observations as a pastor’s wife, and a teacher in a nearby Christian school, you have hit the nail on the head.

    I have said many of these same things to my husband and encouraged him to still take down time. Honestly, his pandemic schedule was so incredibly busy, and I have been remote teaching, as well as our 3 kids doing remote learning. We have had to keep encouraging each other.

    I know that the stress has not been managed well by all the ministers we know.

  27. Nicole, yes – it has been stressful on the entire family. Great thought about how the family needs to encourage one another. I think it says a lot about the heart of pastors that they feel they cannot stop and rest, they are dedicated to serving others. Yet, rest is needed. Thanks for your reply.

  28. Thank you for this. I have seen this in a few places on Facebook and have shared it myself. We need to take care of ourselves and often simply don’t.

  29. I understand your concerns. But I have a question. Where is your faith? Because all the answers to the questions faith. God is in control. Is He not?

  30. Thank you, Anne. In better days we might be more attentive…but in this time of stress we are less likely to be taking care of ourselves. Appreciate your comment.

  31. Thank you for this, John. I’ve read through it a couple of times today. I wanted to thank you for putting this out there. You’ve managed to clearly and succinctly capture the various musings and experiences I’m been wrestling with these last few weeks/months, but haven’t been able to clearly articulate. It is certainly a trying time for pastors who -because of distancing- are even more isolated their support systems than ever while under new and unique pressures both in ministry AND performance. Thank you for “seeing” us all, and giving us a voice!

  32. Thank YOU, Lee. This is a unique time and there are unique realities because of it. I’m convinced we do not even perceive what those realities are at the moment. But we will know. God bless you.

  33. Some of the responses here cause me to wonder if the people who wrote them have ever read a Psalm of Lament? The Bible is loaded with them, and they express all manner of fear, anger, and sorrow. They cry out, wondering if God can hear. If all that is a sign of weak faith, I wonder why they are there?

    It seems to me that true faith is offering everything we are to God – not just our joy and our praise, but also our sorrow, our doubts, our grief, our anger – the whole ugly package – in the trust that God will heal and redeem it. God isn’t Facebook – we don’t have to curate our lives for presentation purposes.

  34. Todd, thank you. I wondered the same. If anyone is looking for a perfect pastor, keep moving along when you come to me! Appreciate your reminder of the concept of lament and our need to express our hurts unashamed before a living God.

  35. Thank you for this article that names — and so makes visible — a very real concern. As a child of a pastor (now retired) and a partner with the pastor of my current church home, I can attest directly to exactly what is described in this article: the overwhelming amount of work to transition to online (preparation, coordination, performance, etc.), the outside burdens of worry over parishioners’ well-being both immediately an into the future, worries over the sustainability of the community, THE COMPARISONS of a little church with our big neighbors (even though we resist, we inevitably engage in comparing). One piece that I think is absolutely crucial to add to your article, however, is the responsibility that LAY PEOPLE have to supporting their ministers. Too often lay people to not recognize that ministers need to be ministered to also, and that it is the responsibility of the lay community to provide that to their pastor. Ministry is a MUTUAL endeavor. I encourage ALL lay people to do check-ins with their pastors. Drop them a CARD (not email; they’re too innundated) to say “thank you” for specific things they find helpful, meaningful, supportive, educational, faithful that their pastor has done. Pastors — like teachers — most often live in the vacuum silence of no feedback. Now is the time for there to be a concerted effort to provide good quality feedback and encouragement. Including encouragement to NOT DO SO MUCH!!!!! Thanks again for bringing this issue to the foreground. May it spark something in all of us!

  36. I honestly think this will get the church off the benches. We rely on the pastors too much to do the heavy lifting. I wonder if pastors will now be tent makers and churches will be home churches that reach out. I am reading Resilient Ministry as part of a course now and self care needs to be a priority for ministers whether their churches are on line or in house.

  37. Tammy, thank you for that … it is appreciated … and I’m thankful for the work of your family in the service of the Kingdom.

  38. Thanks Gayle. It could work out that way. I do think God will use it to His glory, however it turns out. Thank you.

  39. Thank you for sharing.

    God is drawing each of us into a closer relationship with Him through these times of trouble. I am convinced He is sending these things specifically to draw us closer to Himself. In His mercy, He has made it to where many of us can’t depend on ourselves anymore as we may have in the past. What a blessing! Instead we should be spending much more time on our knees, in His Word, turning away from (and repenting of) our sins for ourselves and our country (as Daniel did), and seeking the Lord’s face.

    Right now out of His love for us,the Lord has provided this time of grace before He returns. Are we ready for Him to return? Are we living for Him? Or are we living for today, our congregations, and our “ministries?”

    The question needs to be asked: Where is our focus? Is is on the Lord? Do we really have faith in Him? This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

    If we are looking at what others do and comparing ourselves with them, we’ve missed the point. As Christians, we are to compare ourselves only with Christ. If pastors are not looking to the Lord for their identity, yes, they will burn out. Why? Because our identity is to be in Christ and Him alone.

    We may be used to caring for the flock to the point that we have lost sight of our real goal–which should be to serve the Lord and to glorify Him in everything.

    May the Lord grant us the ability to see the opportunities of this time, instead of the problems the evil one has thrown at us. “For we know that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

    God bless you, Brother.

  40. Your article is on target. This whole issue of burnout and other issues of clergy health plus that of their spouse and family have been increasing for some time. My research since 1996 shows an increasing number of clergy/spouse crisis ministries in various countries and the US

    I was an active pastor for 20 years before going on medical leave which is the UM’s nice way of describing those of us who become disabled while doing ministry.

    Your article is not negative. It is realistic. I can tell that several people who have responded awkwardly, most likely have not walked in a pastor’s shoes personally.

    17 years ago, I put together a page for such a day as this that I keep updated. It has a list of clergy ministries in various nations, nation wide ministries in the US and ministers listed per state in the US.

    I offer this to whoever it may help.

    https://churchhealthdevelopment.com/clergy-%26-spouse-er

    Grace and Peace in Christ

  41. Being a recently retired Pastor of 60+ years, I agree with most of bbn your article. Few people including Church folks understand the life and responsibilities of a Pastor. God help the young ones as they face the trials as they are sure to increase to unbelievable proportions until our Lord returns.

  42. Great insight. Haven’t read the above comments. Maybe it’s been discussed

    But Ministering to the Lord maybe the best first option. Returning to our first love.

    Appreciate this article!

  43. Thank you very much. My support group of rabbis is sharing this widely. We need it and our lay leaders need it, too.

    Blessings,

  44. With all due respect, I’m weary and troubled by this continuing narrative coming from popular Christian websites.

    1. I’ve been self employed for over 14 years. During the last 14 years God has always provided and I give Him the glory for it. Also during this time, I have seen 3 men (all self employed) who committed suicide within 1/2 mile from my shop. Life is difficult and these men left families behind because the weight of this world got too heavy for them. To the best of my knowledge all died without Christ.

    My point in saying this, is that ministry is NOT more burdensome, difficult, or stressful than other occupations. I know people who work in children’s hospitals that see children & their families struggle with disease (many times terminal). I know police officers that have to go to the scene of fatal car accidents and risk their lives every time they clock in to work. The list goes on and on. Even if being in full time ministry were more stressful, it would be worth it. Jesus seeing the glory ahead endured the cross. People who struggle with the issues that you bring up in the article need to keep their eyes on eternity. ENDURE hardness & FIGHT the good fight. (1 Peter 5:1-4, Hebrews 12:1-3)

    2. I think the structure of the 2020 church is out of kilter. What is the average week of a pastor look like? I know that they weeks where the schedule gets demanding, but we ALL do. The biblical standard should be that he is constantly in the Word and in prayer. The church’s expectation of pastors today isn’t biblical. We want them and expect them to do things that are not in the Biblical job description. Churches would be in better situations if the pastors could/would spend hours a day in the Word and prayer. Unfortunately, I think pastors get stuck in too many administrative duties and outside demands that pull them away from the Word. Teaching Pastors should spend 10-20 hours/week in the Bible. It is in the Word that we ALL find peace and hope for this life. (1 Tim.5:17, James 5:14)

    Ministry is tough, but be the example for the flock on how to endure hardship. Stop looking in and starting looking to others. I don’t understand how these pastors, many of whom have been on mission trips and witnessed the circumstances in third world countries can we look at themselves in America and stress over many of our first world problems?

    I wish these pastors the best. Many are good hearted and have lost their zeal. I pray that God restores in them a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).

    Lastly, I strongly believe in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “…bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” We all need to filter the junk that creeps into our minds.

  45. Ron, thanks for writing. I don’t think there is value in comparison. I didn’t say that ministry is MORE burdensome than other occupations. I believe I stipulated that in the first paragraph. But I am in ministry and that is the group to which I am writing. We are having a unique and disturbing experience (as is everyone – but again, I’m not trying to address everyone). I know for certain that what we do not need is a good dressing down from someone who wants to put us in our place. I will just try to think that you meant the best… but … well … I’ll just have to try.

  46. Thank you for letting me know this. I appreciate your sharing it and your love and service to all.

  47. Thank you Solomon. We have three men in our church named Solomon (all the same family!). I’m glad you found this valuable.

  48. Kenneth, thank you for your decades of service to the church and to God. I am also concerned for our younger ministers in this pandemic. None of us have experience to share … it’s a first for us too. I do believe also that we will face trials until the return of the Lord. Maranatha!

  49. Rich, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Growing closer to the Lord is the greatest thing we can do, ministers or not. Good thoughts.

  50. Thx for approaching this. I just sent it to my pastor with the assurance of my prayers. I pastored for 20 yrs before I burned / flamed out 10 years ago.. way before the covid pressures. In regular seasons there are so many inner challenges to pastoring that this added stress will push to the surface. Im not worried about the church, it will be fine, but we should rightly address the pastoral fallout potential.
    Thx, Larry

  51. Good article John!

    Many of these comments… wow. Just “WOW”! One of the books in the Bible that has become increasingly meaningful to me over my 44 years of ministry is the Book of Job. He was a God-fearing man who ran from evil. God’s blessing had been evident in his life until God purposely allowed a season of testing. Job was not perfect in his response… he had very human emotions to such bitter loss, pain, and feeling like God had deserted him. Yet, in the end, it was Job’s friends and all of their discouraging comments that receive strong rebuke from the Lord.

    Friends, it is somewhat arrogant to criticize the faith of a discouraged brother because they still grapple with their own humanity. The truth is all pastors face fatigue, criticism, and depression at times and they’re already condemning themselves for not being spiritual enough. The Holy Spirit is very good at what He does and we get ourselves into trouble when we try to do His job for him. Remember this, Job’s comforters we’re at there best when they they just sat with him and kept their mouths shut. Help us Lord, to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

  52. Thank you for sharing. I am disappointed in some of the responses and while each of us are entitled to our opinions I’m afraid it is the attitude displayed, a failure to offer compassion to your neighbor, that will drive many pastors to the brink and beyond.

    We see every day, week after week, members of the church looking to add just 1 more thing to a pastors to do list. Calls, texts, social media tags coming all times of day (and night) every day of the week. Its only a 20 minute call or that little task can be done in an hour. What folks don’t see is their’s isn’t the only call or that extra hour has to come from somewhere on the schedule.

    In all this we have pressures coming from home, just like everyone else. I’ve got to get these things done, but when? Will my spouse mind covering for me again. I’m sure my child will understand if I step away from their game or concert for just a few minutes.

    It is not a matter of a lack of faith, a desire to throw in the towel, a misdirected sense of what the job is, or even a need for a kick in the pants. It is the simple fact that we, myself included, need a break, some down time, some separation from the vocation so we too can rest in God’s embrace. That we can become refreshed, renewed and revived.

    Again, thank you and may God’s peace be with you all.

  53. John – this is a great article, thank you! Our team is sharing it far and wide. We too are anticipating a wave of needs in pastoral families. We’re Already seeing the first signs of it. I wanted to make you aware of our organization. http://Www.careforpastors.org

    We exist for the very reason you wrote about. Thank you.

    Blessings,

  54. John – I don’t know you personally. I’m sure you’re a good person and meant well by this post, but your suggestions of what pastors should do left out THE most key concepts of New Testament scripture: prayer, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and spiritual warfare. We are in the fight of our lives for our nation, for freedom, for the Church and to share Jesus with as many as possible in these last days! NOTHING will get accomplished without the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit and prayer!! In my opinion, this is what is wrong with the majority of evangelical pastors today and why the modern church IS the Laodicean church spoken of in Revelation – they have quenched the power, person and presence of the Spirit in their lives personally and in their churches corporately. They have only given Him lip service as part of the Trinity, but have not allowed Him to guide their preaching, their lives, or their worship services.

    A lot of pastors have stopped having alter calls altogether or suggest that respondents meet someone in a room off the sanctuary after service is over, when the Holy Spirit is moving in that unsaved person’s life right that minute! They are gripping the pew in front of them and their heart is racing and the Spirit is working on their heart, and then they are told “hold on, not now, not this very minute come and give your heart and life to Christ. Wait until after the service.” And the opportunity is lost as they shuffle out the door. My friend likens it to going to a car dealership to buy a new car. The salesman gives you his best pitch and just at the moment you’re about to say, “I’ll take it!”, he walks away. If one is led by the Spirit, this wouldn’t happen.

    There are many good orators who have learned how to exposit the Scriptures to their congregation, but only a handful who know how to be sensitive to the presence of the Spirit and submit to His authority over their services. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a Baptist church where the Pastor was extraordinarily in touch with the Spirit and allowed Him to work HIS miracles in our services. And when you’ve tasted of the Spirit, nothing else satisfies!

    Mario Murillo had a good article recently which sheds light on the exact scenario pastors find themselves in right now. It’s full of wisdom – hope you’ll read it.
    https://mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/2020/05/21/some-have-their-eyes-wide-open-4/

    That said, I’m not saying that Pastors don’t get discouraged…they are humans like the rest of us. But if I were one, I would be using this down time as a sabbatical to fast and pray and go deeper with the Lord and seek His will for my next steps in this great end time harvest of souls! I’m praying for all pastors to find a renewed relationship with the Holy Spirit and Christ in these last days. Maranatha!

  55. Your well-considered thoughts are hard to take, but truthful. The current pandemic is truly a mixed situation. The stress it brings is difficult, but it should be seen as motivation for all of us to draw nearer to the Lord, to depend on Him more, and to learn a very important lesson: Our relationship with our Wonderful Lord Jesus is far more important than our ability to live a “normal” life. We need God….not the one of tradition, but the One of the Scripture. May the Lord bless and help anyone who reads this.

  56. I am a lay leader in our church. I have the human flaw “I can do it myself”. Yet, when I ask for help, it relieves the stress on me. There are pastors, that are not asking for help from their leaders and members even when knowing they are available to be of service to the pastor and to the church. We don’t expect our pastor to do it all. But there are some pastors that have the mentality “I can do it myself”.

  57. Looking at all the comments from our Christian brothers and sisters we all are here together no matter what our place is. I believe that we all need to be together in one accord. We must keep our focus no matter what diversion pulls on each of us during these trying times. To me this is an opportunity to meet the challenge of the end times as in Revelation. Do what we can today to reach out seek the lost and preserve the present. Always keep the focus of Christ in front of us to lead the way over each mountain that comes before us. Blessing from God come in many forms, just be patient, step out in faith, pray for the church and seek the lost. Our pastors are on the front lines of faith, carrying many different loads of life and maybe some of yours to. Lift up those in leadership as we go through this challenging time. Blessing from God are at the door just open it.

  58. Your thoughtful article rings true, unfortunately.

    Consider. Unfortunately, congregations have hired lone “leaders” to do the work. But each church has people with a variety of gifts. IF WE PUT gifted people together as a team, pastors would not have such a large burden. How many “jobs” are given to the pastor that someone else could handle, e.g. deacons/deaconesses, elders, those good at hospitality, teaching, visiting, planning, etc.?

    Take some burden off your pastor by naming and putting into service the gifts of those in your congregation. Make a team – not one lone individual – to lead your group, especially in this time of disruption and uncertainty. Remember, Jesus had 12 on his team.

  59. Thank you- as a pastor and district-president in a lutheran church in Germany I read your article with interest and thank the clergy coach network for sharing it through fb. I would like to use some of your thoughts for a pentecost pastoral letter to my fellow pastors, since your wording gives structure to my thoughts in the recent weeks after easter and the “opening” of services as well as maintaining several offers both digital and analoge. After my rehabilitation (Burn-Out) a few years ago and continous education on health issues of pastors I really am glad to have read what you have said and written. Thank you.

  60. John, as a minister at age 69, I see similar aged pastors all around me. I worry about what CDC says about our susceptibility to the virus in our elder years, forcing me into an “early” retirement, afraid of asymptomatic carriers and infecting my elderly wife. The pastor crash will be exacerbated when we old souls pull up our roots from this profession just to preserve lives.

  61. Fully concur with your “best I know” segment. That’s absolutely true. And yes, these are unique times. Being a pastor in my mid-30s I am perplexed at times but not overwhelmed, yet. I say “yet” because I’m concerned about the future as you alluded to. The church landscape will inevitably change, not just with some closing, but overall, worship services and ministries will have to go through major adjustments to say the least. And if there’s more spikes of Covid-19? How will that discourage the general population? Through a redemptive lense, I see this as a great opportunity, if we remain faithful because people’s souls will be at the ready. And if WE’RE not ready to receive them, the enemy will take them off our hands. I won’t get into what it’d look like without a redemptive lens, but understand if we don’t guard our hearts we will default there anyway. So, be encouraged, brothers, great opportunities are here and many more are on the horizon. The field will be whiter than ever before, and pray God will indeed add more workers. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate upset to Satan? As he hopes more churches close, instead more workers are empassioned to harvest? Thus, we come full circle, best thing is to let’s mind ourselves well so that we’ll be qualified when that time inevitably comes.

    On a more pastoral counseling note, some churches will inevitable close. They already do. It will be vital for communities to surround all church leaders and staff when these times come so that they don’t fall prey to false, discouraging thoughts such as “my lack of effectiveness or faithfulness led to this.” Local churches may close but God’s Church and His children will always thrive, and we must be vigiliant in warding off any discouraging thoughts and disillusioned people.

    Blessed by many of the comments.

  62. My former Associate Pastor sent me the link to the article. And it has been a refreshing read.

    In many ways, I was reflecting on the ways that I can better myself. And I thank John for helping me do that.

    Let me share the article with fellow Pastors as well.

    Please continue to write more.

  63. As a pastoral coach, I was struck by how your article reads like a coaching call. Line by line, you describe where so many pastors, young and old, are right now. Like the man who has a tiger by the tail, how and when can a pastor let go? And in this case, how can a pastor let go and let God? Thank you for your insights and for your heartfelt concerns for pastors and churches. As others above have noted, while COVID has brought these issues to the surface, some of these issues pre-date COVID, revealing structural changes that pastors must make in how they do life and ministry. It begins with a primary focus on Jesus Himself, a John 15 abiding in the vine that is vibrant. It continues with a focus not on the doing of the ministry, but on the being of the minister: doing flows from being. Life-and-death attention must be given to “being” and only then to “doing.” Not as a recuperative technique, but as a way of life that pleases God and brings His life flow to others through us. If I may, I would suggest another great resource (your list is tremendous): Preventing Ministry Failure by Wilson and Hoffman. Again, thanks for a spot-on article. Like you, I hope you have overstated the issue, but my day-in, day-out work with ministers tells me that if we don’t address this head on and hard, it will be accurate.

  64. We all need to step up and help out, reach out. Too many people (“pew-sitters”) in churches look to the pastor to meet their every need when it is God alone Who is able to do that. Thank you for the encouragements mixed in with the warning signs and cautions. May God carry His people, especially His pastors who shepherd His sheep, through these times.

  65. Over the last 10 weeks or so, I have felt everything you wrote about. COVID-19 is challenging all us pastors to keep our heads screwed on straight. The sudden onslaught of challenges that I wasn’t trained in have been overwhelming, draining, exhausting. You’re right. My half-time “priest-in-charge” position has become utterly 7 days a week, etc. etc. I’m worn-out.
    I’m preparing to retire (again) at the end of the year. I’ve started a website that ministers to women who have been spiritually abused by someone in their church (whether that’s by the pastor or other lay people.) As I read your article, I’ve wondered what effect this pastor burn-out/crash will have on the frequency of pastors (who are themselves spiritually and emotionally spent) spiritually abusing his/her members?

  66. Right on target. Thank you for putting in writing what some of us feel is now our priority, to help pastors in need, not of more information, but (spiritual) formation, to face the new challenges.

  67. Hi John,

    Greg McAbee here and I’ve been following you since our Truth-quest days. As you may or may not know I’ve had an online platform for some time and i continue to build online resources for people. I have hundreds of sermon podcasts, bible sites to get the Bible to the world in 29 different languages.

    This is something that I have been working on most of my life. I don’t ask for money or donations and in fact, you can’t even donate money to me and the word goes out ever day, every week, every year and I hope the things that I’ve done will be timeless and be passed around for may years after I leave this Earth.

    You’ve been on my mind a lot. And if anyone needs help setting up some online resources they can hit me up. Stay tough brother.

  68. Hello Sir, This is Prasanth Bethu, I went to school at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY. Currently i am working as a pastor here in India. During this Covid19 time “The Coming Pastoral Crash” is very helpful. I am planning to translate into my language with your permission and help some other pastors in our area. so please let me know if that is ok with you. thank you so much for this wonderful article. God Bless you.

  69. Prasanth, certainly feel free to translate and share. I’m glad you found it helpful.

  70. Words of prophetic insight of the times we are in. With much prayer these words will be received as godly counsel with instructions to move forward. Thank you.

  71. Totally agree. But hey, on a positive note, God knows what He is doing, and we were called for just such a time as this.

    On the other hand, I’ve told more than one person, “I need a vacation.” But there seems nowhere to step off while the bus is still moving.

  72. John, thank you for your insight and thoughts on this very challenging subject. I too, believe that we are seeing the beginning of a lessening of available ministers who are called and who surrender to service to the Lord’s churches. I think this process has been developing for a while now as many church’s relationships with their pastors and leaders have weakened and fewer Christians are being encouraged to seek God’s will in their choices of service and career.

    I also believe that the Covid-19 pandemic may just be the catalyst to bring this condition of fewer pastors and church leaders to light. As I meet with pastors and others, may I share your article with them as conversation starters on this important subject?
    Joe

  73. As the wife of a minister for 38 years I must say your article is realistic and compassionate . My husband is very conscientious concerning his work ethic but he is being required to learn a completely new set of skills on the fly to meet the needs of the church who is already fragile. I am very proud of some of clever things he has done to adapt. I work in a career that when the employees are expected to learn new and challenging skills they complain and go to their union to demand their rights. His attitude has been very mature but he is just a man and feels as any other person. He struggles with the burden that all changes may not be enough to keep a small church together. I try to remind him that this is Gods church and it has been around for 50 years because God cares about His children even more than my husband does. The sadness I have seen for him is when he is not permitted to express his fears or bad habits, seeking help, because as church members have said “he shouldn’t feel that way”. Basically he is not allowed to share with the community of believers , instead is to be above the law. He dedicates his life’s work to the salvation and care of others but not to partake of Christian fellowship in weakness. Therefore, a forum like this is very caring for minsters and helpful to have less judgement so they can heal and be able to tell the truth. Thank you for caring for ministers…they are people too.

  74. Great article! https://www.exago.org/holistic-coaching.html This article is on point with why Exago launched it’s Holistic Coaching. Ministry leaders NEED a safe place to be real, without the threat of being fired for being human. I agree that we need to look out for and minister to each other, but too often I’ve heard similar words without action. I believe a little formality in a coaching relationship can go a long way to bless co-laborers.

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