Winston Hall posted this article and I have post it here.
Years ago I (Charles) went to the All Day Minsters Conference with Bill Gothard and one of the sessions was on Pastor’s Burnout and how to avoided it. And I did hear a lot. And I will say that the time I was out of full time as it is called ministry, that is not working in a church on the staff, was not all that great or restful. Nevertheless.
Pastors Need ‘Season of Zechariah’
Several years ago I stumbled upon a term used by Will Willimon that pertained to clergy burnout — only he called it “brownout.” I instinctively knew what he meant when I read it. .
The brownout phenomenon is an increasing problem in ministry and one that, quite frankly, I faced for the first time this past year. My ministry is non-traditional in nature. I am a full-time seminary professor and administrator by day. That role in itself keeps me terribly busy. It is, in fact, the ministry to which God has called me. My ministry now is to ministers and I take that role quite seriously. But that is not all that I do.
As crazy as it might seem, I still have a curious and strange love affair with the church. So I also serve the church in many ways – primarily as an interim pastor. Recently, I concluded a three-year interim which is hands-down the longest of my career. Near the end of that experience, I realized how tired I was.
The past year has been one of stress, activity’ travel, and one that drained me of every drop of energy I owned. I wasn’t in burnout — a dangerous and often deadly vocational state — but I was in serious brownout. I was near the point of utter exhaustion and I needed to slowdown.
So I’ did just that. I slowed down. I practiced what I have been preaching to ministers for years now. I placed myself in a self-imposed state of sabbatical. I have turned down numerous preaching opportunities, I have informed two churches that I am not ready to take on another interim yet, and most importantly, I have taken the time necessary to rest and heal from my service to the church. It has taken me almost two months to feel that my insides are untangling and that I can truly breathe again.
I have referred to this time as the “season of Zechariah” for me. Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist and when the old priest learned that his wife Elizabeth was with child, he did not believe the message of the angel. Consequently, he lost his voice until the rambunctious baby was born. The season of silence was important, I think, for when the time came, Zechariah was free to praise God for his wondrous acts.
The writer of Ecclesiastes also reminds us that there is “a time to keep silent and a time to speak” (3:7) And we all know that one of God’s most sacred commandments is to keep Sabbath in our lives, I know very few ministers who are allowed Sabbath — a rest or a break from the routines of service.
I am ready to speak again. I’ve needed the distance to teach me some lessons about the value of words and the value of silence. It has been a productive and fruitful time of “nothingness.” Don’t be misled. This season of “nothingness” has been a remarkable time of growth and nourishment for me. I think I have learned more in silence than all the years of accumulating words could offer.
I am now in a stronger position than ever to advocate on behalf of pastors who desperately need time away to heal and rest from their labors. Some churches allow a sabbatical. Others mandate days off for their ministers. Most, sadly, don’t really care, and treat the minister like an hourly wage employee.
Ministry is one of the most stressful and demanding callings to which a person gives his/her life. The perks are few and the stress and aggravation are incalculable.
I am grateful for the days of Zechariah that I’ve enjoyed (and will continue to for a few more weeks) but I also pray that many other ministers will be granted that same grace and consideration. They need it. Their families need it. And God knows, the church needs it. The church needs ministers who have been given time to rest and given time to renew the energy and the passion needed to serve in this wonderful Kingdom. I pray that for my minister friends such a gift comes sooner than later.
– by Dr. Danny West,
Executive Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
and Associate Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Studies at the M. Christopher White School of Divinity, Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC.