Blog Archives

Clergy Burnout

I’m grateful to my friend Pam Garrud to pointing on her Facebook profile to this piece in the New York Times about clergy burnout. As someone who needs medication to control hypertension and whose girth has increased, some of it hit home.

I’m not one of those ministers who fails to take their annual leave in the way the first page of the article describes. I do try to take some exercise. Usually after the school run, I get out the iPod and go for a brisk walk. However, that doesn’t stop me wondering what some less charitable members of a congregation might think if they saw me out walking. I was told at college that ministers should be at their desks at 9 am. I, however, might well be walking. Of course, most church members are fine about it. It just takes the vociferous minority. Not that they ever say it to your face. You hear on the grapevine.

The importance of stillness and sabbath is critical. I have seen ministers wreck themselves with workaholism. In the middle of the day, I was able to smell the alcohol on the breath of one (now deceased) Superintendent.  To say nothing of how he spoke publicly about his wife.

But the NY Times piece rightly goes further than just ministers not taking care of themselves. On the second of the two pages, it talks about the pressures of declining and aging congregations. It talks about how clergy push themselves further, due to these factors. What it doesn’t say is that those same factors lead some churches to place extra strains of expectation upon their ordained staff. ‘Miracle worker’ might just as well be put in the job description.

To that end, when I was formally welcomed here, I quoted Monty Python:

He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.

The trouble is, many of us in the ministry don’t believe in the grace we preach. And nor do our congregations. We are paying a price.


OK, here’s another round-up of links I found during the last week. Have fun.

A Theremin (remember Good Vibrations?) inside a Russian doll. (Via Mojo.)

A friend of mine once rewrote Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch as the Dead Church Sketch. But now we learn that the ancient Greeks pre-empted the dead parrot sketch.

Jesus spoke about lust as ‘adultery of the heart’. Now, a ‘virtual affair’ in Second Life has led to a divorce.

The Today programme on BBC Radio 4 ponders great drum solos.

Remember the Johnny Cash song ‘One piece at a time’? Well, a Russian Orthodox church has been stolen, brick by brick.

Once it was pizzas looking like Jesus, now it’s Buddha bee hives.

You want a prayer movement – how about this? Artist creates ‘public prayer booths’ in NYC. They look like phone booths, apparently.

If only this were true: hoax New York Times newspaper proclaims end of Iraq war.

My father has a life-long interest in astronomy. Doubtless he will have been excited to read about the Hubble Telescope spotting a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut and the planetary system discovered by the Gemini Observatory in Chile. (Both links via Personal Computer World‘s weekly email.)

Ruth Haley Barton has written on the loneliness of leadership: loneliness drives us to seek the presence of God rather than any notion of the Promised Land.

Unhappy people watch more TV. ‘TV doesn’t really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does,’ says researcher John P. Robinson.

Go on, you want to make cake in a mug.

MyBloop – unlimited free online storage, max file size 1 GB. Via Chris Pirillo.

Twenty hated clichés. In contrast, here are James Emery White’s top five irritating Christian phrases.