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Hope for the Weary Souls of Pastors

2.  Consult a Professional.

Pastors are humans, too, with backstories, family histories and struggles like the rest of us. Yet, called to help others walk through their struggles, very few have dealt with their struggles or past traumas, many of which are unrelated to or happened before their call to ministry.

A licensed professional can help profoundly. They can help you see blind spots, better understand your family of origin, and give you tools to help process your thinking and emotions.

Because of confidentiality, a counselor or therapist offers a safe place to be brutally honest about your own story and the stress of the job. And if being seen walking into a counselor’s office feels daunting to you, virtual counseling is an excellent place for pastors to start.

3. Take a Sabbatical.

For too long the expectation of many pastors has been that they’re always on call, and many can’t remember the last time they took a day off. Every church should have a theology and policy of sabbatical for their pastors. Why? Because the word sabbatical comes from the word “sabbath,” or rest, which is precisely what God did after he finished the work of creation.

A sabbatical can be a significant break, but it doesn’t have to be for several months. It’s really about the spirit of a sabbatical—it’s a season of time to rest and renew your soul from the work of tending to others’ souls.

And this may be challenging, but if you can’t take one, you may need to ask, “Have I built something around me that’s unrealistic, or am I in a system that’s unfair?” Something may need to change with your church’s culture if you can’t take some form of a sabbatical.

The necessity of pastors taking an intentional rest for their work is so vital. We can rephrase the words of Jesus to say, “What does it profit a pastor to grow the biggest church but lose their soul?”

4. Keep Following Jesus.

Jesus is the model of keeping a healthy community. He spoke to thousands, discipled dozens, invested in 12, and was close to three.

He also knew when to get away on his own to rest and pray. But, of course, there’s a difference between isolation and solitude. Jesus recognized the difference between the two, and so should we.

Pastors must be as healthy as possible because their responsibility is serious. Like Moses, they need someone to come alongside them before they give out. And regardless if you’re a pastor or a parishioner, we’re all called to come to Jesus when we’re weary.

As Eugene Peterson paraphrased in The Message, Jesus says to all his disciples then and now: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Having served as a pastor for two decades, I know that every statistic in our study represents a soul longing to be known and heard. Every pastor’s soul needs tending, and they can’t do it alone.