Peterson on Burnout

Tom JamesonUncategorized

“I don’t think pastors “burn out” because they work too hard. People who work hard often do so because they’re good at what they’re doing and they enjoy doing it. I think burnout comes from working with no relational gratification. Relationships become laborious and draining. Pastors can lose touch with relational vitality when their relationships are driven by programmatic necessity. When this happens, pastors can lose the context for love, hope, faith, touch, and a kind of mutual vulnerability. In the midst of the congregation, pastors become lonely and feel isolated—and that isolation can be deadly to the pastoral life. Those are the conditions in which inappropriate intimacies flourish.” – Eugene Peterson

From the Alban post “Committing to Mutuality: An Interview with Eugene Peterson

Peterson did pastoral ministry well. It seems an important key to that was setting appropriate boundaries and sticking to them. It also seems that doing ministry well involved teaching his congregation that as a pastor, he was still a “real person”.  (Not unlike Hillary Clinton’s goal on “Face the Nation”!)

How well do pastors do at these? What kind of grief is created by ignoring them? How easily do the thoughts of “no boundaries” and “not real” take root?

Peterson’s insights are a treasure trove of pastoral-life jewels. His careful reflections on his life and call create a healthy pattern worth examining.

**This blog page is my contribution to helping pastors engage in their calling more effectively, and find the resources God alone can provide through grace, mercy and hope.

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