Why So Many People In Christian Ministry Burn Out Early — And 8 Proactive Ways To Prevent It

First, you need to remember that you are not God.

Man praying in Christian Ministry Thx4Stock, pcess609 | Canva 

Remember when you felt the strong call to go into Christian Ministry? Testing your call through your denomination and theological school was a long process. Can you remember the day you were ordained or commissioned? 

Seeing the increasing pressure church leadership faces in mainline denominations today is concerning. With the shift in cultural values, where the church is no longer the focal point of communities and congregations are dwindling, it seems ministers are too often the target of blame. This trend is worrying and deserves our attention. You are now at a higher risk of burnout in Christian ministry.


First, you need to remember that you are not God. You cannot fix your congregation. If your community wants to grow, it needs to work with you. It needs to be open to new ways of being a church. It would be best if you got beyond “We have not done it this way before.”

Establishing and maintaining healthy habits and lifestyle is essential to perform your tasks effectively and prevent the ministry from burning you out.

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Eight ways to proactively plan for a long career in Christian ministry

1. Manage your time

Most clergy are taught to expect to work more hours than they are paid for.  I have attended clergy events, and ministers will try to show off by letting others know how many overtime hours they worked. It is a badge of honour to overwork. These people are the most likely to burn out in Christian ministry.


Younger clergy insist they will keep their overtime to a minimum and take two days off weekly. The best way to maintain control of how much you work is to keep track of your hours.  If you have to work more at a specific time of year, arrange to take some time off in a quieter time.

Remember, it is okay to say no if you are being asked to do something unimportant or already have too much going on.

Ensure you have a friend or family member who will let you know if they think you are moving towards burnout.

2. Set realistic expectations 

It would be best if you managed not only expectations for yourself but also for your congregation.

Be honest with yourself about how much you can impact.  Remember, you are not responsible for the success or failure of your congregation. This needs to be a group effort. You will burn out in ministry if you try to be the lone ranger.


Set a time every day to walk away from work even when you do not have everything done unless you have a deadline for the next day.

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3. Take 'Holy Time' 

Taking Holy Time helps you to connect with your God self. Start with the prayers of your tradition. Today there is a rich array of resources to support you in your prayer and meditation life.

One prayer I love is called Centering Prayer. It like that it is straightforward. First, in prayer, develop your focus word (mantra).  When you sit down to pray, get centred through some deep breathing. 

This form of prayer is not about emptying your mind. It is about not getting overly attached to your thoughts. This leaves room for God to speak to you.


Connecting with God regularly will help prevent you from experiencing burnout in Christian ministry.

4. Find effective ways to raise your self-awareness

In ministry, we need to be at our best. You don’t want to transfer your issues onto other people.

I have found the psychological-spiritual tool called the Enneagram helpful to help me notice how I show up daily. 

Your Enneagram type reveals the box you put yourself in and shows you a path into wholeness. When you do this work with the support of a coach or spiritual director, you will find the Enneagram even more helpful. 

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5. Set aside a 'Sabbath' for yourself, too

Taking time off and relaxing is essential, primarily if you work on the Sabbath. Consider finding another day or time during the week to unwind.


Think about activities you enjoy that can help you get some exercise and fresh air outdoors. Take some time to brainstorm and come up with ideas that bring you joy. Think of activities that will help you to quiet your mind, open your heart and get in touch with your body.

Treat yourself to a massage, join a yoga class, go to the gym, learn Tai Chi or take up a sport you love to play.

Do this, and will you not burnout in Christian ministry?

6. Grow a few nurturing relationships outside the church

If possible, find relationships outside of the church. There is more to life than what is going on in your church. This is harder to do when you are in a small town. If you end up hanging out with a person from the church, agree not to discuss church issues.


If you are married to another clergyperson, make sure there are times when you don’t talk about the church. Try to find activities, projects and volunteer time outside of the church. This will give you and your partner other things to talk about.

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7. Ask for what you need

It is always good to know what you need. If you don’t know, you might benefit from professional help.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  Help your congregation to understand that they benefit from a healthy minister.

Suppose you don’t find this easy; practice, practice, and practice. Your practice is the best prevention tool to stop you from experiencing burnout in Christian ministry.


8. Seek support

Your faith reminds you that you are not alone.  Remember that you can’t do ministry alone. It would be best if you had your congregation to work with you. If you are the only person in your church who wants to do a particular activity, this may not be the right time to introduce your new project.

Find support networks in your denomination so you share the ministry's ups and downs with others.

Find a colleague you trust and enjoy meeting for coffee or a meal regularly, even if you need to do it on Zoom.


Open your heart to God to help you discern the direction you need to be going.

If you are struggling, you can meet with a coach, a spiritual director, or a counsellor. Often, we need an outside professional's help to see our blind spots. It is our blindspots that lead us to burnout in ministry.

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Ministry is hard.  It takes a lot of faith and courage to minister in denominations that are losing people faster than they are joining.

Yet it is a privilege to walk with others on their life/faith journey and hear the ups and downs of their life. You listen to stories most people don’t hear because of the trust your position gives you.


To be an effective minister, you must take good care of yourself. Please prioritize what is most important. You must ask what you need from your family, friends, your congregation and God so you do not burnout in Christian ministry.

You will be your best when you do everything you can to stay physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.

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Roland Legge is an author, certified spiritual life coach, and teacher of the Enneagram. He helps people connect to their inner selves and find alignment with their highest purpose and values.