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How to Avoid New Clergy Burnout

New clergy usually start out with a passion for preaching and leading congregations. Over time, unfortunately, the passion too often subsides and the “want to” becomes a “have to,” according to Dr. Frank A. Thomas. Therefore, he said in a 12-minute interview archived by the Center for Pastoral Excellence, every now and then we need to have a “passion check” to assess our vocation, “to check where we are, how we’re feeling about what we’re doing.” He recommends clergy decide to get some rest or take a vacation, tweak things a little to get that passion back. 

There are many reasons new clergy suffer burnout and Thomas explores some common ones and steps to take to restore passion. Most importantly, he says, is that clergy maintain “an intense and abiding relationship with God,” because “ultimately, it comes down to a relationship between you and the one who called you.” Spiritual formation is the most critical long-term resource for clergy, and Thomas says peer collaboration, mentors and groups are essential to avoid isolation and discuss challenges and ideas. For more on clergy support, burnout and renewal, see our feature articles “So Much Better: How Peer Support can Revive Pastors’ Passion,” and “Finding Renewal through Fellowship.” Also see “Best Resources for Sabbaticals.” For more on the role of congregations in preparing new clergy, see “The Important Role of Congregations in Preparing New Pastors.” For more on leading congregational change in the contemporary era, see “Ten Essential Skills the Next Generation of Religious Leaders Will Need.” Also see the resource link, “Help for Pastors Leading Church Transformation.”

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