pastor depression

Pastor, Are You Burned Out?

Many pastors experience down times where they donโ€™t have much energy for ministry.

Depression and burnout among pastors is a chronic problem in the church. Many pastors experience down times where they donโ€™t have much energy for ministry. These often follow a period of intense ministry activity. Itโ€™s a natural response of the body to being overworked, but itโ€™s not burnout โ€“ not yet.

Burnout is a prolonged feeling of depression, joylessness, or anxiety. In pastors there are several symptoms that signify full-blown burnout. Before reaching that depth, there are signs that burnout may be on its way if things donโ€™t change. Below are partial lists of symptoms for pre-burnout and total burnout. If you are experiencing three or more of these symptoms, that may be a sign that you need to make some changes.

Pre-Burnout Symptoms

  • You continually feel behind in your work.
  • Youโ€™re consistently working more than 45 hours pers week.
  • Youโ€™re not taking a Sabbath day.
  • Youโ€™re not taking a day off.
  • Youโ€™re feeling continually frustrated, anxious, or stressed.
  • Youโ€™re having trouble sleeping.
  • Youโ€™re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
  • Youโ€™re having trouble being creative.
  • Youโ€™re not exercising.
  • Youโ€™re using overeating, sex, or self-destructive behaviors to mask your emotions.
  • Youโ€™re withdrawing from important relationships.
  • Youโ€™re avoiding conflict out of self-protection.
  • Youโ€™re not praying.
  • Youโ€™re not reading your Bible for your own spiritual nourishment.
  • Youโ€™re not aware of Godโ€™s presence.
  • Worship feels stale.
  • You donโ€™t love preaching anymore.
  • You have escapist daydreams (like dreaming about other jobs).
  • Youโ€™re avoiding accountability.
  • You feel shame, self-loathing, or indifference toward self.

Full-Blown Burnout

  • You donโ€™t feel anything most of the time โ€“ life is kind of gray.
  • When you do feel, the emotions are intense โ€“ rage, vengeance, jealousy, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
  • You feel like your job (or even your life) is killing you.
  • Youโ€™re doing the bare minimum every day.
  • You have no energy for basic tasks โ€“ especially self-care.
  • Youโ€™re in full-blown addiction to pornography, alcohol, sugar, shopping, or other destructive behaviors.
  • Youโ€™re engaging in mind-numbing behaviors for long periods of the day โ€“ TV, video games, surfing the internet, etc.
  • You have nothing to look forward to in the morning.
  • You avoid going to bed at night because you fear tomorrow.
  • Youโ€™re hyper-vigilant โ€“ your defenses are always up.
  • You canโ€™t think clearly, ever.
  • You find yourself asking, โ€œWhy did I do that? Thatโ€™s not like me.โ€
  • Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde feels like your personal diary.
  • The only energy you feel comes from anxiety, anger, or fear.
  • You havenโ€™t laughed in months.
  • Your spouse or kids are avoiding you.
  • You are thinking of death or asking God to take your life.
  • You donโ€™t even know where your Bible is.
  • People have stopped asking, โ€œAre you okay?โ€
  • You feel empty inside.
  • Exhausted doesnโ€™t begin to describe how you feel.
  • You are in full-blown doubt โ€“ wondering if God is even real.
  • Hate feels good.
  • You cry for no reason.
  • You donโ€™t cry when you should.
  • Existence hurts.

If you are in burnout or approaching burnout, you are not alone. Iโ€™ve been there and God brought me back. Hope is not gone. You can find joy and fruitful ministry again but you will need help. Talk to someone. Find a licensed Christian counselor, a spiritual director, or a veteran pastor (like me) and ask for their help. In my next post, Iโ€™ll share how I climbed out of burnout.

Pastors, if you have faced burnout, what would you add to these lists?
Please, offer some encouragement based on your experience in the comments below.

Author of ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐‘พ๐’†๐’‚๐’“๐’š ๐‘ณ๐’†๐’‚๐’…๐’†๐’“โ€™๐’” ๐‘ฎ๐’–๐’Š๐’…๐’† ๐’•๐’ ๐‘ฉ๐’–๐’“๐’๐’๐’–๐’•: ๐‘จ ๐‘ฑ๐’๐’–๐’“๐’๐’†๐’š ๐’‡๐’“๐’๐’Ž ๐‘ฌ๐’™๐’‰๐’‚๐’–๐’”๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’•๐’ ๐‘พ๐’‰๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’†๐’”๐’” Zondervan Reflective, March 28, 2023 | West Michigan Regional Director for Pastor-in-Residence Ministries ( | Co-host of the Hope Renewed podcast | Clergy Coach | Certified PRO-D facilitator | Spiritual director | Graduate of the Soul Care Institute | Provides training in soul care and leadership | Consults for churches and leadership teams | Leads workshops and retreats | Served as an ordained pastor for 18 years | MDiv from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. | Learn more about Sean at

2 comments on “Pastor, Are You Burned Out?

  1. Pingback: Battling Burnout: A path for recovery — The Pastor's Soul

  2. Pingback: Listening to Discouragement — The Pastor's Soul

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