Leisure and Burnout in Ministry Articles

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Stress and the New Appointment

Every so often, United Methodist pastors get the opportunity to move. According to 1995 data that I collected, moves happened every 2 ¾ years for WNCC clergy. This was better than the average some 10 years before. Without question, this is a stressful time for both clergy and the congregations involved. Next to death and divorce, a change in jobs and moving are on the list of the most stressful events that happen in a person's life. How do we deal with it?

  • Sleep and eat well. In the first months of a new appointment there is the tendency to burn the candle at both ends, and to eat in an unhealthy way. It does neither you nor the congregation any good to miss your rest or eat poorly.
  • Take time for leisure. Because of the stress of the move, your body and mind need more leisure rather than less in the early days. I have found that establishing some healthy patterns of time away early in a new ministry make it easier for the future.
  • Take time for family. You are not the only one who moved and has encountered stress. Spend time in your new home and setting with each other. Take time to talk about your last situation, and to look at your new one with hope and anticipation.
  • Establish a day off from the start. It is good for the parish to see you take care of yourself from day one. Though my day off is usually flexible, it helps to have a specified day each week. This gives the parish a reason not to call except for emergencies. I am thankful for the pastors I have followed who taught the congregation well.
  • Get involved in a clergy group. I have never moved to a community where there wasn't some support or study group available for clergy. I was not always the most regular participant, but I am learning that I cannot sustain God's call on my life without the support and challenge of community.
  • Remember you are in it for the long haul. Your appointment was not intended to be for a few months, but for several years. There will always be more work for the kingdom than will ever get done. Establish foundations that can sustain you for a long period of time. You and your congregation/people will appreciate it.



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