Several years ago, when I was working for a Christian organization and the editor of their monthly devotional magazine, I had the chance to meet Charles Stone, Senior Pastor of Ginger Creek Community Church. Actually I “met” him via email. We had the opportunity to print an excerpt from his then-new book, [amazon ASIN=”084990434X”]Daughters Gone Wild, Dad’s Gone Crazy[/amazon]. This was a great book that chronicled the journey he took with his daughter who rebelled for a time but then came back to the faith.
Since then, we’ve become friends. Charles graciously endorsed [amazon ASIN=”1596690887″]Teen People of the Bible[/amazon]. We’ve also ran into each other at writer’s conferences, etc. I highly recommend his blog: charlesstone.net.
Well, now Charles is out with a brand-new book, [amazon ASIN=”0764207059″]5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them[/amazon]. It is a revealing look at pastoral burnout. I’m nearly finished with the book and I can say that it has challenged me and has educated me on the rigors of ministry. I highly recommend it for both pastors, board members, and lay people.
1) As a new pastor, I gravitated to 5 Ministry Killers, because I want to learn all I can from pastors. In your mind, what has been the biggest surprise about the ministry–the one thing you didn’t learn in seminary that you had no idea you’d encounter?
The biggest surprise for me has been the unforeseen realization that ministry brings lots of disappointment. Often our dreams and plans don’t materialize and seminary didn’t teach me how to balance dreams with the letdowns that come
2) You talk quite a bit about pastoral burnout. What do you think is the chief cause?
Working way too many hours, not keeping healthy margins, and not processing disappointment in a healthy way can contribute. But perhaps the greatest source of burnout comes from prioritizing the wrong things in ministry. One of the most shocking findings from the Barna and Lifeway research was this. When the researchers asked over 1500 pastors what frustrated them the most, here’s how they responded.
60% said that organizational matters of the church bothered them the most.
30% said that the lack of spiritual growth in their people bothered them the most.
15% said that lack of relational health among their people bothered them most.
The 60% category, leadership, strategic planning, and resource management, are extremely crucial. However, when we invest the lion’s share of our emotional energy in those areas rather than in trying to meet the spiritual and relational needs of people (great commandment and great commission issues that are near the heart of God), I don’t believe we can experience the rejuvenating power of the Holy Spirit as deeply. The result, burnout. However, when we focus on those areas near God’s heart, I believe he rejuvenates us in incredible ways.
3) As I read your book, one thing that struck me and really hit close to home was your research on what causes stress in pastors. It’s often organizational issues rather than the lack of spiritual growth in the congregation? Is that because we often have the wrong measuring stick for growth?
You hit the nail on the head. In the U.S., we measure success by numbers. This success mentality has bled into the church as well. We feel successful when budgets, buildings, and ‘butts in the pew’ grow. I don’t mean to discount these markers, but when they become primary, we too easily lose site of what matters most, loving God and loving others and helping those we serve do the same.
4) If you could give a young pastor one piece of advice going forward, what would you say to him?
Find a strong, wise, mature, safe believer of the same sex whom you will allow access to your inner world. This could be a professional counselor, someone in your church, or someone not in your church. This is so important that I devoted an entire chapter to it
5) You have spend much time in Nicaraugua. How has this changed your perspective of ministry here in the United States?
A half dozen trips to Nicaragua have humbled me. The pastors there work with so little and are forced to rely on the Lord for His provision and protection. Their faith has made mine look very small at times. At the same time, their faith has encouraged me to become bolder as I lead our church.