How to Become a Cynical, Burned Out, and Discouraged Pastor In Six Easy Steps

There are a lot of cynical, burned out, and discouraged pastors out there. The sad truth is, there are many more pastors who will become that way. There is good news for the discouraged pastors. There is good news for those pastors and leaders who are on their way to a path of discouragement. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are the signs of declining leaders. Take heed, and avoid.


If you’re the pastor, there may be an expectation that you will do all the work of the ministry. It’s like the one-man-running-the-church show. Except the show won’t last more than a few seasons, and it will probably end in tragedy. Don’t do all the things. You can’t. Don’t try.

2.  Refuse to laugh at yourself.

A leader who takes himself too seriously is going to have some serious problems on his hand. You don’t have a sense of humor? Maybe you haven’t looked in the mirror lately. There are plenty of things to laugh about, and many of those things begin with yourself. Once you learn to laugh at yourself, you’ll take a whole lot of stress out of your life.

3.  Avoid vacations, relaxation, or time to think.

Speaking of stress, it is always part of the equation for the burned-out pastor. We could really just substitute “stressed out” here. Stress kills, literally. And a great way to stress yourself right out of your mind is to never take a break. Chilling is neither selfishness nor weakness. It is essential. That’s the way God wired human beings. We need sleep. We need rest. We need a break. A quick glance through the Hebrew calendar, designed by God himself, shows red-letter celebration dates all the time. In fact, God was so serious about vacations that he told them to take a year long vacation every fifty years! Resting shows our reliance upon God, not self. So go ahead, take a break with God’s blessing.

4.  Don’t plan ahead.

The problem with living by the moment, is that it’s more often living by the seat of your pants. You never knew you were called to be a firefighter until you started leaping into every day trying to put out fires, quell uprisings, keep the church together, and disciple 549 people in one week. If you are a leader, you should be a planner. Planning ahead does not require that you prepare your sermons for the next six years. (Although it’s not a bad idea.) Planning simply means that you know what’s coming, when it’s coming, and are prepared to deal with it.

5.  Micromanage.

If you’ve ever been micromanaged, you know how obtrusively stifling and annoying it is. If you are a micromanager yourself, it’s got to be a pain to keep it up. Here’s some advice:  You don’t need to micromanage. Allow your team members and volunteers to thrive in the roles God has called them to. Check up on them if necessary. Advise them where appropriate. But don’t micromanage. Not only is it unhealthy for them, but it’s also a path to cynicism and discouragement for you.

6.  Disengage from your family entirely.

Busyness does not give you a free pass to neglect your family. Never. You need your family. More importantly, your family needs you. Never is it appropriate for you to neglect the needs of your family to serve the needs of the church. Becoming disengaged from your family is the Interstate route to abject discourgement. There are few things more discouraging than overworking yourself in ministry, only to wake up one morning and realize that your kids have strayed, your marriage is on the rocks, and your family is crumbling around your ears. Commit yourself to your family and refuse to sacrifice them to your idol of busyness and work.

Burnout, cynicism, and discouragement are very real perils for the pastor. Sadly, this is where many a pastor has prematurely ended his ministry. Let’s release our death grip on our false perception of the pastor’s role, and engage in the refreshing, liberating, and life-giving joy of trusting in Jesus to help and guide.

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