Let Me Please Breakdown

I remember the first time a pastor colleague told me that he had a breakdown, requiring hospitalization and therapy.  It was 35 years ago.  He blew my mind.  He was successful—the pastor of a large church.  He was very matter of fact about the incident.  It was Sunday morning.  He was, at home, getting ready for Sunday worship.  He was looking at himself in the mirror, while shaving.  And it happened.  He completely lost it.  And he was admitted to the psych ward of the local hospital.

Someone needs to take seriously the plight of clergy and their families.

A study conducted by Fuller Theological Seminary in the late 1980s uncovered the following:

  • 90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours per week.
  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry is affecting their families negatively.
  • 33 percent say that “Being in ministry is clearly a hazard to my family.”
  • 75 percent have reported a significant crisis due to stress at least once in their ministry.
  • 50 percent felt unable to meet the needs of the ministry.
  • 90 percent felt they were not adequately trained to cope with the ministry demands placed upon them.
  • 40 percent reported at least one serious conflict with at least one parishioner a month.
  • 70 percent of pastors do not have someone they would consider a close friend.
  • 37 percent admitted they have been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in their congregation.
  • 70 percent have a lower self-image after they have been in pastoral ministry than when they started.

(Clergy Burnout: Recovering from the 70-Hour Work Week…
and Other Self-Defeating Practices. Fred Lehr, Fortress Press, 2006, page 4.)

Change happens so quickly that there is no way that a study from the 1980s quoted in a book published in 2006 speaks strongly enough of the plight facing clergy and their families today.

Charles A. Lindbergh once said, “Man must fall the earth to know himself and recognize his values… God made life simple. It is man who complicates it.”

When will the universal church—and denominational leaders—recognize and publicly acknowledge the dire straits of clergy today? When will someone insist that churches require—not merely “allow”—pastors to take sabbaticals?

Recently we have been listening to Jack Johnson songs. One that hits home is called “Breakdown.”

I need this here
Old train to breakdown
Oh, please just
Let me please breakdown

Wouldn’t a vacation—or a sabbatical—be more in line with what God intends for his servants?

Photo: Jack Johnson – DAR Constitution Hall 9/25/2013 by Matthew Straubmuller is licensed under CC by 2.0.