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Clergy Overload Alert: 7 Warning Signs That You Are Running On Empty

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Though deeply fulfilling, ministry is often highly stressful. Adding to the stress is the  inability or unwillingness on the part of many clergy to own their physical and emotional limitations, and incorporate regular periods of leisure and respite into their busy schedules. Here are seven clear warning signs of clergy overload:   

  1. You haven’t had a day off in weeks. Due to obligatory weekend labor in a society when most persons have the weekends off and a vocation that requires appropriate attention be paid to emergencies, pastors are particularly prone to working multiple weeks in succession without taking vital and necessary time off. This is a prescription for disaster.

  2. You feel like you're rushing all the time. In a world where fast and faster are promoted and praised as our only options, it is easy to run and keep running simply because everyone else is doing so. Chronic rushing risks our being in attendance where life is concerned, but not present. 

  3. You are beginning to secretly resent the obligations placed on you. Smiles don't tell the whole story. Often, smiles hide deep-seated tensions and stress. We laugh to keep from crying. As pastors, in the course of trying to be all things to all people, all the time, we cultivate the tragic skill of being able to hide our pain from others and from ourselves.

  4. You are increasingly impatient. Sadly, the first ones to feel the brunt of our lack of gracious waiting are our family members, especially our children. One of the signs of impatient waiting is rushed listening.

  5. You are becoming more forgetful. When everything starts meshing together in a life characterized by overload and hurry, life loses its distinctiveness. We lose the ability to tell one thing from another and, at times, the ability to name one thing to recall and remember.

  6. You tend not to be excited about life. Living excitement may be gauged, in part, by how much anticipation we feel for the day's plans and activities as we arise in the morning.

  7. You feel down and depressed more often than not. What are being referred to here are not the occasional days and sometimes periods of feeling blue. Such a feeling periodically is a part of wholesome living. Some of life's most important lessons can only be learned in the valley. On the other hand, taking up residence in despondency and despair is a sign of dangerously strained emotional and spiritual health.                    

    Excerpted from Fulfilled: Living and Leading with Unusual, Wisdom, Peace, and Joy by Kirk Byron Jones