The following post is from GCI regional pastor Ken Williams.
Ministry burnout is a real threat (see the March issue of Equipper now posted at http://mindev.gci.org/equipper.htm). I think most GCI pastors understand the threat, though not all seek help when experiencing burnout symptoms. Perhaps my story will be a source of encouragement.
In 1995, I was pastoring a church in decline (many of you reading this can relate!). I was experiencing many depression-like symptoms, but not doing much about it. But then an article in Leadership Journal on depression among church leaders got my attention and led me to consider the symptoms I was experiencing.
At the same time, my wife and a couple other friends were concerned about me and encouraged me to get help. I agreed, and visited a competent, experienced counselor who understands Jesus’ gospel. After completing five sessions I understood that what I was experiencing was unresolved grief. I was grieving the loss of the departing members. I was willing to take medication to help me, but in my case the symptoms were relieved through the interaction with the counselor who helped me walk through the grief process.
Through that experience and others I’ve learned over the years that to avoid burnout it is vital that pastors have close, honest friends. Indeed, such friends are a gift from our loving heavenly Father! My wife Nancy is my best friend but it complicates our marriage if I rely solely on her for emotional support.
We all need friends who can be objective and honest with us. And from time to time (as was my case) we may need professional counseling services. Most U.S. health insurance plans cover counseling (such is the case for GCI’s plan). Please avail yourself of this benefit. Self-diagnosis can be inaccurate and incomplete.
Brothers and sisters in pastoral ministry, you are not alone! Please seek help when you need it.