It’s been widely known for some time that many clergy types are under stress. For whatever reason, many of us wind up in that well publicized state called burnout.
I heard recently that two of the most prominent drugs used by clergy folks in the United States are Azor and Zoloft. I’m not totally sure of the accuracy of this statement, but I don’t doubt its veracity. I’ve watched many of my colleagues fight high blood pressure and depression (maladies for which Azor and Zoloft are often prescribed).
I, myself, tend to be so laid back that my tendencies toward such things seem to be minimized. Thus far I’ve been on the lower end of that spectrum. After thirty-five years of ministry, I suppose I’m somewhat safe (although, high blood pressure tends to run in my family.)
I’ve been a tentmaker for the past twenty years. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with that term, it’s a reference to the Apostle Paul who made and repaired tents for a living. It has come to mean anyone who works another job to support his or her ministry.
“…the leeway of saying no.”
Serving from that perspective allows me the leeway of saying no. If something doesn’t fit into my schedule and is not important enough, I pass. Some of my full-time clergy brethren don’t have that luxury (or at least don’t feel like they do).
I once heard John Maxwell relay the following story concerning a time when he served in a denominational setting. As is usually the case, there was an annual pastor’s report. One of the lines on his report asked how many visitations he had done throughout the year.
He began to wonder if anyone ever read these reports. One year he answered by saying he had done 15,000 visitations. No one said anything, so the next year he filled in the blank saying he had done one. Still, no one said anything.
“That little story changed my life.”
That little story changed my life. Up to that point, I was a big numbers guy. No more. I began to look at what was important and what could be jettisoned. I ended up jettisoning a lot.
More importantly, in thirty-five years of pastoral ministry I’ve observed something of extreme importance. Every time one of the congregations I served had a spurt of growth, it was laity inspired, laity led, and laity fed (although I’m sure the Holy Spirit had a little something to do with these windfalls).
I learned, sometimes the hard way, to step back from time to time. I’ve seen that congregations will gladly allow the pastor to do everything if he/she is willing. I’ve also seen that they will fill the void when the “hired help” isn’t doing what they think should be done.
Ultimately, that’s our big problem. We clergy types see ourselves as hired help. We look at ourselves as professional Christians who need to earn our keep. The result? “Pass the Zoloft please.”