Every pastor gets overwhelmed. The pressures of ministry are real and many, and seasons of stress are bound to occur. I’m sure many of you have stories of severe storms in which the stress was overwhelming. However, when ongoing stress starts to define a pastor, it becomes a contagion that spreads to others.
Unresolved stress can ruin church leadership. In fact, it can turn normally humble pastors into tyrants. When the causes of stress go ignored, when a pastor refuses to deal with the root of stress, then leadership becomes impaired.
What are some warning signs ongoing stress is starting to impair your leadership?
1 The questions of others are viewed as attacks. I’ve been guilty of treating questions from people as an interruption to my schedule, when in reality my role is to serve them. It’s understandable pastors will feel this way from time to time. When stress builds, however, an impaired pastor will view questions from church members and staff as attacks. When stressed out pastors start thinking every question is an attack, paranoia will drive them away from the very people they are called to serve.
2 You take the mistakes of others as a personal letdown. Church members, staff, and other leaders will make mistakes. Often. So will pastors. Churches—even healthy ones—are glorious messes where imperfect people serve a perfect Savior. Stress starts to impair leadership when a pastor takes everyone else’s mistakes personally. If you feel like every mistake in the church is an indictment on you, then stress might be impairing your leadership.
3 You withdraw from key problems. Pastors should not feel the burden to solve every problem in the church. Superhero pastors are neither super nor heroes. But church leaders impaired by stress have a tendency to withdraw from the problems they should help solve. At times these problems are among the causes of the stress! Withdrawing from key problems creates a vicious cycle in which stress builds even more. Running from stress only creates more stress.
4 Seclusion is more about escape than spiritual retreat. Jesus had time alone to pray to the Father. Pastors and church leaders should follow the example of Christ. However, Jesus was secluded for spiritual reasons. Isolation from others as a means of escape is a major warning sign.
Stress in ministry is inevitable, but unchecked stress is dangerous. It can impair your leadership. It makes you selfish. If you start thinking every question is an attack, if you take the mistakes of others personally, and if you withdraw from key problems, then stress is likely impairing your leadership.
This article was written by Sam Rainer and originally published at churchanswers.com on November 24. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.