Top 8 Issues for Pastors by Ron McIntosh (Part 2)

Problems and Solutions Read Part 1

This blog continues our review of the top 8 issues pastors struggle with the most. In Part 1, we took at look at criticism of conduct and family problems. Now let’s talk about stress, depression and burnout.

Research reveals the top 8 Issues for Pastors include:

  1. Criticism of Conduct
  2. Family Problems
  3. Stress
  4. Depression
  5. Burnout
  6. Sexual Problems
  7. Financial Problems
  8. Time Management

Let’s look more closely at issues 3, 4 and 5.

#3 Issue – Stress

Emotional highs and lows of pastoring weekly add to the stress loads of pastors. Unreal expectations add to feelings of inadequacy. Critics always sound louder than shouts of appreciation.

  • 90% work 55 to 70 hour work weeks.
  • 75% deal with stress- related crisis regularly.

#4 Issue – Depression

Many pastors suffer from seeing the gap between what is real and the ideal. Rather than celebrating progress, they lament the lack of fulfilling goals.

  • 70% feel they constantly fight depression.
  • 70% feel lower self-esteem presently more than when they started ministry.

#3 and #4 – Keys to Overcoming Stress and Depression

It’s obvious that overwork, crisis related ministry, the demand of doing more than you are able to do and financial strain can create a feeling of stress. Stress can be defined as thoughts from circumstances that create pressure or distress (or double stress). This is why when two people face the same circumstances, one has stress and the other does not. It is now estimated that 90% of doctor visits are related to stress.

On the surface, it seems there is little you can do about stress. The bills don’t stop coming in, and there will be no added hours in the day. Your church and family challenges won’t go away. However, you are much more in control than you think.

Here are some keys to dealing with your stress

1. Avoid unnecessary stress.

  • Learn to say “No.” As a pastor, I often felt it was my duty to say “Yes” to everyone’s needs. Once I lost my “Messiah Complex,” I realized I couldn’t change everyone’s problems and some issues could wait until later.
  • Some people only want your time as a point of identity. Learn to move them away.
  • Take control of your environment. You are in control of your schedule.
  • Pare down your “To Do” list. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and “musts.”

2. Let Peace rule in your heart.

  • We’re good at preaching peace, just not as good at living it. Peace is the ability to not be moved by my circumstances. Peace is the result of biblical meditation on the Word (Ps. 1:1-3), not having anxiety about anything (Phil. 4:6, 7), Rom. 8:28), staying positive, God is in control (Phil. 3:7-16), letting Peace umpire your heart (Col. 3:15).
  • Retrace your problems. Try to view your problem from God’s perspective. Rather than fuming, regroup and reevaluate.
  • Look at the big picture, Romans 8:28 is really the truth.

3. Accept the things you can’t change.

  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable – particularly other people’s behavior. The only person you can control is you (Gal. 5:22c).
  • Look up and look for the upside. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. If criticism is valid, change. If criticism is invalid, trust God to work on the other person.

4. Make time for fun and relaxation. Biblical meditation can be greatly relaxing. Set aside relaxation time daily. Don’t allow your obligations to encroach on the times of refreshing you need.

  • Do something you enjoy every day.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Don’t let life get you down. The joy of the Lord is your strength.

5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • Exercise regularly (about 30 minutes, four times a week). It is a great stress reliever.
  • Eat healthy – you’ll feel better. Reduce bad carbs and sugar.
  • Get enough sleep at night.

All of these suggestions are what we know but often need a reminder and a plan to actually do.

#5 Issues – Burnout

If 90% of pastors work 70 hour work weeks and struggle to find meaningful family time, it stands to reason burn-out takes place.

  • 50% feel inadequate to meet the needs of pastoring.

#5 – Keys to Overcoming Burn Out

The first key is to identify if you are feeling burned out. Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As stress continues, you lose interest and motivation in your life. Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy. The result is a helpless, cynical point of view. You may be experiencing burnout if:

  1. Every day is a bad day.
  2. Caring about your calling seems like a waste of time.
  3. You are exhausted all the time.
  4. You feel like nothing makes a difference.
  5. Most days you feel like quitting.

The second key is to realize that most of the time burnout is a result of feeling overworked and undervalued. See the keys above for overcoming stress and depression as keys to break burnout.

WATCH for upcoming posts – Top 8 Issues for Pastors – Part 3 and 4 – where I will address the remaining issues.

This is my prayer for you:

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21)


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Read Part 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.