Monday, August 2, 2010

Clergy burnout

There's a chunk of time this summer where I'm only preaching one Sunday out of four: two weeks of vacation and a special visit from our synod bishop.

In some ways, I feel like I'm missing something when I don't preach. Preaching is one of my greatest passions. I love reflecting on what the Bible says for our community on any given week. I also think of preaching as a spiritual discipline.

On the other hand, I know that life goes on without me. I know I need to breathe and take some time away. An article in Sunday's New York Times about clergy burnout was a helpful reminder of this:

According to the article, pastors have higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and depression than the rest of the population. In our ELCA, 69 per cent of pastors report being overweight. In my first year at Amazing Grace, I didn't take all my vacation time. I enjoy what I do so much, I want to put all my energy into being pastor. However, I know that I need to stay focused. I now that I need to practice self-care. I am not Jesus. Sometimes I need reminders of that. This NY Times article is one of those.

Regarding supply pastors filling in for preaching, there are two schools of thought: First, have the best possible preacher be the guest so that the congregation can experience faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Second, have the worst possible preacher so that the congregation is utterly thankful the regular pastor is back. I try to do the former. The pastors I've invited to preach in my stead are wise, experienced pastors that I have firm confidence in. I almost wish I could hear them preach.

But then, that defeats the purpose of vacation, doesn't it?

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