Hope after pastoral burnout

My radio-producer friend, Ray, emailed this week.

I always like hearing from Ray. He produces three syndicated gospel music shows. Pours them like honey into many countries worldwide, keeping people faith-filled, positive and positively tapping their toes.

Ray’s done a few things in his life. For years, he also owned and operated a gospel radio station, often hob-nobbing with well-known gospel singers while managing his station’s booth at music conventions.

 Operating a radio station solo is a peck of work, so when in his sixties Ray, a widower, re-married and moved, he pared his radio work down to his current three shows, Embers of the Day, All Country, and a two-hour program called Sunday Side Up. Somewhere in that last one, he tucks in my 90 second radio spot, Simple Words. (For readers in the Yorkton area, Simple Words also airs a few times each weekday on 98.5 FM.)

 I love Ray’s notes. They’re disjointed and funny and every so often he says something that leaves me hooting. Like this bit:

 “Don’t you just love it when you are trying to get to sleep and the same two lines of a song keep going on over and over in your head? ‘Life is like a mountain railroad….’ Change the tune!!!  But it comes back again. And profound questions like “I wonder how many hours are left in my 500 hour light bulbs?” “What day of the week is Christmas on this year?” Ahhhhhhh! All I need… at the end of that list is to have a line from that song come back… ‘keep your hand upon the throttle and your eye upon the rail!’”

Ray pastored for years. He told me once that leading congregations burned him out. “Sometimes the sheep bite the shepherd,” he says. He views his radio work as another type of ministry, reaching people who aren’t part of a church. People who need a little gospel music honey to remind them that God cares.

 I’ve met numerous clergy-people like Ray. Pastors who burned out before their time while serving Jesus full-time in church work. Some, like Ray, found other types of ministry. Others have lost their faith in God altogether. Hung it up on the thorny pegs of discouragement, disillusionment, disunity, and depression.

How do you encourage someone like that? Someone who likely studied for years, even has a degree in leading congregations and encouraging faith in others? I don’t know. But I know this: if you’re a regular church attendee, your pastor is very likely (gasp) human. And human beings, even leaders, need regular, tangible reminders that others care and regularly pray for them as they nurture and lead.

Pastoring is a nasty job sometimes. Ray isn’t the only ex-pastor who can tell you that. So could my husband—and his wife.

Encourage your pastors. It will help keep their hand upon the throttle, their eye on the rail and their Sunday Side Up. It might even improve their sermons.


Are you a burned out pastor/spouse — or do you have one? You may want to check out the resources here.