First, a word from April:
The conversation about mental wellness is a much-needed, ongoing conversation. If we are going to be whole in our body, mind, and spirit, we cannot ignore the symptoms of burnout.
In this episode of The Global Fringe, Dr. Wes Beavis helps us navigate how to care for our mental health well. We talk about the findings from his new book, including what burnout is, the six stages of burnout, the two greatest causes, and how to prevent it.
Below is a pastoral letter from Dr. Beavis…
The journey of faith can be confusing and complicated. Being a leader within the faith journey can be even more so. Admittedly, there are some leaders who are rewarded well for their efforts. I hope you are one of them. But my experience as a pastor and a clinical psychologist who counsels pastors leads me to this understanding: many of you serve in your ministry roles without commensurate reward or appreciation (not that you are doing it for that reason).
One of my favorite movies is Seabiscuit. It’s the story of a racehorse who had a rough start in life and was basically written- off for having any future racing value. In one of the movie scenes, a sage trainer makes a comment about an injured horse; “You don’t throw a whole life away just because he’s banged up a little.” I have watched the movie many times, and every time I hear that line in the dialogue, it puts a lump in my throat. I think about the many pastors who have given up on their ministry because they have been too banged up to continue. Often, when racehorses experience an injury to the scale where they will not race again, they are “put down.” Fortunately, injured pastors are not euthanized—but often their dreams for ministry are.
If the ministry journey has left you beaten up, it doesn’t mean you are unsuited for ministry. It may mean you need to take a different approach. If you are banged up, don’t throw your ministry life away. Alter your course. General George Patton said it well, “Never retreat; attack in a new direction!” Persevering in the gospel doesn’t mean persevering in methods that are not working. God has created you to produce fruit and to find satisfaction in being fruitful. Persisting in a fruitless situation is not good for your spirit or your mental health. Be assured, what you are going through is definitely solvable.
When you are burned out, it’s easy to talk yourself into being defined by your failures or identified by your wounds. Run from these self-assessments. They are not true. You may be a pastor who has failed. The truth is, we all have. But you are not a ministry failure. You are an oak tree—full of gnarly twists, rugged knots, and crooked branches. God planted you in the field of humanity—not to be perfect but to become strong and valuable in the presence of all your imperfections. God’s favor is never at the mercy of your flaws.
Thanks for being on the team. As long as you have a pulse and a prayer, you always will be.