In their new book—Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans (2013), Joel R. Beeke and Terry D. Slachter, borrowing from Archibald D. Hart’s work—Coping with Depression in the Ministry and Other Helping Professions (1984), list seven causes of pastoral discouragement, depression, or burnout.
First, the ministry is a people-oriented calling to lead a group of volunteers. A pastor cannot avoid problems such as troublesome personalities, interpersonal conflicts, and resulting frustrations in meeting his goals.
Second, a minister’s work does not have clear boundaries. Feeling they can never complete any one task creates a lot of stress for pastors.
Third, pastoral ministry lacks criteria for measuring success, yet most ministers (disclaimers aside) long to see tangible results of their work. Yet setting numerical goals in ministry is like grasping at the wind.
Fourth, congregational expectations for a pastor are often unrealistically high. This not only sets up a minister for failure in meeting everyone’s expectations but also tends to make him a people-pleaser.
Fifth, problems in a pastor’s character, such as perfectionism, laziness, authoritarianism, or a victim mentality may exacerbate difficulties in church leadership.
Sixth, many ministers come to a church with extremely idealistic anticipations. The idealism of youth combined with high spiritual aspirations can lead to grave disappointments if adjustments are not made in the first years of ministry.
Seventh, many pastors feel guilty about their limitations, emotional ups and downs, and weaknesses.
Note: Click here to listen to my message on encouraging ourselves in the LORD our God (1 Samuel 30:1-6).