When I do church consulting, I often encounter pastors who are just worn out, and often heading toward burnout. In my conversations with these leaders, I usually learn that the battle had been ongoing long before I arrived to consult. Indeed, some of the following signs seem to be recurrent among wearying shepherds.
1. He doesn’t laugh like he used to. His joy that used to erupt in fun seems to have disappeared.
2. He just looks tired. When you’re not resting well, it usually becomes evident at some point. Others begin to notice.
3. His evangelistic and discipling illustrations are dated. That happens when you’re weary: You can tell only old stories because you’re too tired to live new ones.
4. Preaching seems to be more a chore than a joy. His sermons lack fervor, and his joy in proclaiming the Word feels forced.
5. He avoids the crowds. The pastor who used to mingle prior to and after the service, who enjoyed fellowshipping with his congregation, begins to retreat to his office more often.
6. Illness is recurrent. Sickness can be a byproduct of emotional and physical fatigue. It’s the body’s way of trying to get our attention.
7. He talks about being worn out. Some pastors exaggerate their workload, but others are genuinely overwhelmed and weary—and their brief words are a cry for help.
8. His family’s concerned about him. If you want to really know if your pastor’s exhausted, talk to his wife.
9. He overreacts in unexpected ways. He formerly exhibited calm wisdom, but now he acts impulsively and unwisely. Burnout has a way of messing with your thinking.
10. He withdraws from friends. Avoiding the crowds is one thing; creating distance from good friends is another level of concern.
If you’re a pastor walking in these shoes, talk to somebody today. Get a prayer partner to intercede for you. If you see these signs in your pastor, pray for him today and tomorrow. Pray for a fresh wind of God’s Spirit as he preaches this week.