...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Friday, February 1, 2013

Add Burnout to the Three B's

Jim Henderson, in Jim and Casper Go to Church, well- described the holy trinity of pastoral success as the "Three B's," that is,  buildings, budgets, and behinds- in- pew. There have been some  attempts to soften the success formula (Lovett Weems, now of Wesley Theological Seminary). 

Making the pastor's spiritual health one factor among many means that the spiritual integrity of clergy is nothing without the help of at least one of the measurable "Three B's." 
The late author and preacher John Claypool wrote a stirring spiritual memoir of his search for self-acceptance and awareness as a younger pastor. A critical part of his story was his struggle to grieve the death of his young daughter with raw honesty. 

Claypool also described living off the latest success in terms similar to an addiction. After each major pastoral accomplishment, the euphoria gradually lessened in intensity and duration until the next big success came around. The cycle finally left him exhausted and in his words, "bone weary."

Kate Bowler's searing article of fall, 2012 critiques the Prosperity Gospel theologically, but it seems timely to assess its toxic effects on the spiritual health and relationships of clergy. Prosperity churches are taught to buy into the externals as validity of the whole of the Christian faith. The preacher-and their family- must necessarily be shining examples of success in every aspect of their lives, mirroring God's faithfulness.

Once you take the pill, burnout is inevitable. Especially because the same results- or ego rewards- often require greater and greater investments of energy and attention to attain a similar emotional high. But the externals will never measure the missed opportunities for enduring joy and love. 

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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