What Should You Do About Pastoral Burnout? Tips to Prevent It & Support Pastors

The job satisfaction rate of pastors have significantly dropped over the last few years, and it has led to pastoral burnout. There could be many reasons behind this declining rate, including the lack of appreciation or rewards, support from the community, workload, or something else. But how can your church deal with pastor burnout and even better, what can you do to prevent it? Read this blog to get tips and insights!

7 minutes read
What Should You Do About Pastoral Burnout? Tips to Prevent It & Support Pastors


In late 2022, only 52% of pastors were very satisfied with their jobs. That is a significant drop from 2015 when 72% of pastors were very satisfied. This statistic may seem understandable with the Covid pandemic hitting churches hard, but these numbers show a crisis that few outside of the church are aware of.

Pastoral burnout is a grave issue for many churches. When a church loses its pastor, it can affect the entire congregation for years to come. In this article, we’ll explain what pastor burnout is, give you signs to look out for, and help you with tips to prevent it at your church.

What is Pastoral Burnout?

Pastoral burnout is a name that can cover a variety of internal and external issues. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) defines burnout as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Signs of burnout include the following:

  • Feeling depleted or exhausted
  • Feeling negative or cynical toward your job
  • Less productivity
  • Relationship issues
  • Anxiety, Depression, and other mental health problems

Workplace burnout is far too common for pastoral staff. Pastors hold primary leadership positions in the church and are responsible for teaching, preaching, and overseeing the church’s vision. Many also conduct funerals and marriage ceremonies. The Covid pandemic and current political climate made pastors’ jobs harder and created a greater disconnect between them and their congregation.

3 Shocking Pastor Burnout Statistics Your Church Should Know

You may wonder if the issue of pastoral burnout is that significant, why haven’t you heard of it? That is an excellent question because the statistics are beyond shocking.

1. Physical well-being in pastoral staff fell from 24% to 9%.

One of the primary and most understandable reasons a church may lose its minister is a health issue. Many senior pastors are older and with the fear of another potential pandemic, fewer may be willing to take a chance when they feel ill.

Many pastors are also their family’s sole breadwinners. The threat of a severe illness can make it difficult to provide their significant others and children with enough care.

2. Ministers stated a drop from 34% to 17% of ‘true friends’.

Stress and loneliness can cause extreme mental health issues. It’s common for leaders in any career to feel separated from their peers, but you may be surprised to hear how significantly it’s affecting the ministry.

Pastors make it their life’s work to be good friends to all their parishioners, but few feel that friendship is reciprocated. People need a strong community to stay mentally healthy and strong. This is especially crucial during a trauma.

3. Only 35% of pastors under 45 are ‘very satisfied’ with their vocation as a pastor.

This statistic is one of the most shocking if you assumed all issues started with the pandemic and that the older pastors were the ones feeling less satisfied. But that is not quite the case. Because 58% of those 45 and older feel ‘very satisfied’ with their vocation as a pastor. That indicates that the younger pastors are more prone to feeling burnt out while working for the church.

What are the Causes of Pastoral or Clergy Burnout?

discussing causes of pastoral burnout

Reasons for burnout typically include:

1. Workload

As we all know, demanding work is common for pastors, but the growth of mental health and loneliness issues in the United States has made pastors’ work more difficult.

When parishioners hit difficult times, their first stop is often their pastor. This can mean calls in the middle of the night and extra meetings throughout the day. These unexpected meetings come on top of a pastor’s daily responsibilities. In small churches, with only one pastor, this can result in burnout and quick turnover.

2. Reward

For all their hard work, pastoral pay has not caught up. The average salary for Senior Pastors is $62,858. Associate, Youth, and Children’s Pastors’ salaries are much lower.

Salaries for pastors found in cities like New York or Los Angeles may be higher, but inflation costs mean salaries don’t go as far. This results in reduced satisfaction among pastors and can eventually lead to burnout.

3. Community

During the pandemic, many churches were forced to close their doors to keep their community safe. While most churches moved their services online, they lost face-to-face contact with members. The results of this separation have diminished the strength of relationships between fellow members and the church. Since pastors take on significant responsibility, when they can’t see the results of their efforts in person, they lose the passion that they once had for their work.

4. Lack of control and fairness

The younger generation has become keenly aware of mistreatment in the workplace. They also aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves when they feel it’s happening to them.

If a church board overrides a pastor too often, they start to feel a serious lack of control and mistrust of other church leaders. Pastors that feel they’re not being treated fairly and like a member of the leadership have a greater chance of leaving the church.

5. Values mismatch

Values and a calling to share God’s word is the primary reason for someone to become a pastor. When a church moves away from those values, it can lead to burnout among pastors. The church may even expect to lose its pastor, leadership, and members.

3 Proven Tips to Prevent Pastoral Burnout in Ministry

There are many ways you and your church can prevent pastoral burnout in your church. Below are three proven tips that will help your church.

1. Understand and address the problem

Now that you’ve learned about some statistics and prevalent causes, you’re aware of how severe the problem of pastoral burnout is. The responsibility comes upon your church leadership to work with the community and find ways to show support for its pastoral staff.

Many churches have started to collect love offerings to show their appreciation. Read more about love offerings in our blog and learn the best ways to get started.

2. Foster a supportive community

Your church should be a safe space for pastors to openly express struggles, concerns, and fears without fear of repercussions. Churches can create this environment with solid staff training and evaluation, clear policies, involved leadership, and a focus on pastoral care.

3. Return to God’s message

The church went through several internal struggles when the focus moved from the Lord to the world. Many denominations and churches spent several generations remaining separate from worldly issues and removed themselves from politics.

Today the opposite is happening, and some churches are on the front lines of the abortion, homosexuality, and gun debates. If your church has lost its focus on the Gospels and God’s word, you may need to discuss with your leadership and membership why refocusing is necessary.

Men and women become pastors because they’re called to spread God’s word. When the Lord’s message gets lost, pastors and their congregations can lose faith.

7 Great Ways to Help Your Pastors or Clergy Members Deal with Burnout

how to help pastors or clergy members to deal with burnout

If your church is currently facing pastoral burnout, there are several steps you can take.

1. Increase pastoral pay

The first question you must ask your leadership team is are we paying our pastor enough? If not, can you afford to give them a raise?

Check out our article on church salaries to see how to find the best salary for your pastor and other staff members. View the salary ranges of pastors around the country to see where you stand.

2. Offer a sabbatical

Salary isn’t always the best way to address burnout. In many cases, a much-needed break is required. A two-week vacation is nice, but since a pastor’s life is mentally and emotionally exhausting, a longer sabbatical is likely necessary.

3. Supply educational opportunities

Another way to support your pastoral staff is to provide them with more educational opportunities. Churches can find free and affordable seminars and training materials on the Internet. There are also several conferences that take place to help churches throughout the year.

Visit our website for a list of conferences that your church should consider this year. You can also refer to our article Church Leadership Training to gain insights into the training programs that will benefit your pastors and leadership team.

4. Set realistic expectations

Your pastor and congregation may have unrealistic expectations that are causing pastoral burnout. Take the time to meet with pastors and your church’s Board of Directors to reestablish expectations for your staff.

5. Create a pastoral team

Many small churches rely on one pastor. The likeliness of a pastor feeling lonely and depressed in this situation is higher than in congregations that have a group of pastors. If your church can afford to hire more staff to take on a percentage of preaching, teaching, and counseling, your senior pastor can start a new leadership role and limit the sense of overwhelm that can encourage them to leave.

If your church cannot afford more staff members, meet with other churches in the community to see if you can build a community of church leaders within your community.

6. Provide staff counseling

Being a pastor or minister of any size congregation is a 24/7 job. It is not uncommon for a pastor to receive a call in the middle of the night from a parishioner asking for help. The physical and emotional stress can be all-consuming at times.

Your pastor is expected to counsel church members, but without a place to receive counseling for themselves the health of your congregation will suffer.

7. Have difficult conversations

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s time for your pastor to leave. If your pastor no longer feels the calling to preach in your church, or they’ve shown a dangerous lack of productivity or honesty, you must force yourselves to have the difficult conversation to let them go.

Final Thoughts

Pastoral burnout poses a significant challenge for churches. When a minister leaves the congregation, it can have a long-lasting effect on the entire congregation. Statistics show many churches in the United States are facing this challenge, but there are steps you can take to ensure the health of your pastoral staff and church.

Finances and fundraising can be other stressful areas for your church, but Donorbox MinistryMatters aims at addressing them. With effective and easy-to-use giving tools, features, and services, your pastors’ and leadership team’s job will be hassle-free! And you will be able to boost giving and create better relationships at the church.

Learn about our products and features on the website. Sign up to start fundraising for your church!

We have more insights, tips, and articles for churches on our Nonprofit Blog. Explore them to improve church fundraising, management, and donor stewardship at your church. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a handpicked list of our best resources in your inbox every month.

Avatar photo

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

  • linkedin
  • url

Join the fundraising movement!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive the latest blogs, news, and more in your inbox.

Join a 30min Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!
Join a 30min Live Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!
Breng je Donatie ervaring naar een hoger niveau
Increase tithes and offerings for your Church
Donorbox MinistryMatters is trusted by impactful Christian organizations around the world