Burn Out: How to Identify It

At least once in their life a person will experience burn out. Burn out can be defined as a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Have you been there ? Are you there now?  In this article we will look at some interesting facts about burn out and how you can combat it.

Burn out can happen to anyone in any profession in this article we will look at ministers as our example. The reason I choose this profession as our example is simply taken from my past experiences. I have served in ministry for 12 plus years now and I have been through my rounds of  burn out. You might be asking why would a minister of all people ever go through burn out? A minister gets to work at church and tell people about God how can it get any better than that. Looking back at the definition it helps us to realize that a lot of times it is not the job itself creating burnout but from the side effects of long-term exhaustion or a  diminished interest in work.

When I was in student ministry right before making a career change into the ministry I serve now which is outside the church. I went through a bad case of burn out. Looking back at my burn out experience I can only point the finger at myself. I believe the cause of burn out for me was frustration. My interests were beginning to shift which came from new burdens I had developed. My patience for regular matters or issues that came with my job in student ministry went to nothing. I began to dislike my job in student ministry not because of what I was doing but in the matter in which I was fulfilling my new burden. The new burden for me at that time was reaching a larger amount of students that were not stepping foot in the church. As I began involvement with a new ministry it enlightened me to a new burden I was developing in campus ministry.

The lessons that I took from that past experience were:

1. Never ignore frustrations

If your finding yourself frustrated with things that really never bothered you before take that as a warning sign to find the root of the frustration . Ask yourself is the issue at hand causing frustration or has my passion changed to something else and I just don’t have the patience to deal with the matter at hand. If it is the problem at hand look for ways to resolve them and move on.

2. Never ignore burdens and passions 

If it is a new burden that has taken root or passion don’t ignore it and keep your job for a paycheck. Look for ways to pursue that new burden.  Talk to close friends and ask them to pray with you and for you about the new passion and burden you have received. Once they are very clear began to think of ways that you can pursue them as a job.

3. Never burn bridges

When I was going through burn out I came very close to burning some bridges and I am so glad that I did not.  Sometimes when frustrations are heavy and your not clear on why your patience is low it can be easy to burn bridges with people. In times of frustrations you are not thinking normal. So always consider the long term rather than the moment. Once things were clear for me that I was being called to a new type of ministry I approached my pastor at the time and shared my heart. It was great because my pastor at the time ministered to me and encouraged me with support. The church I served at hated to see us move on but they were so supportive of us and that made it so rewarding.

Some of the number one causes of burn out

1. Frustration – know the root and resolve as soon as possible.

2. Fatigue – never taking time for yourself and over work will surely take the fire away.

3. loss of passion – this can result from the two above or from the result of developing a new passion


Some Interesting Stats About Burn Out In Ministry

According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/nyregion/02burnout.html

“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”


  • 13% of active pastors are divorced.
  • 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
  • 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
  • Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.


Comments andThoughts

How have you experienced burnout ?

Would Love to Hear your comments!

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Originally posted 2013-11-27 16:10:05.

  • brandonstarnes

    We had the drawing and so far it has been great.