Why Pastors Leave After a Building Program

Now that we’ve survived the major push to occupy our new facility at 872 Maitland Avenue, it occurred to me that someone out there might have written about what to expect as a church AFTER the completion of a new building.

I did a Google search to that end. About four pages into the search I ran across this intriguing title. The article suggests, for a variety of reasons, that as many as twenty percent of pastors leave their churches within two years of completing a building program.

As I read through the article I found myself grateful for the wisdom to have stayed out of the construction process to focus on my pastoral responsibilities. I said all along that wiser, smarter, and better equipped people than I served on the building committee and sub-committees to put our structure on the map. Pastors doing the opposite apparently position themselves for disaster. The article calls it a recipe for burnout:

Most pastors already have enough work to do. The weekly regimen of preaching, preparation, counseling, visitation and administration take up the bulk of their time. It has been estimated that the pastor of the average church works 48 to 55 hours per week. Add to this the responsibility to get a building built, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.

Indeed. Praise God for sidestepping that pitfall. You can read the rest of the article here, if it interests you.

I have noticed, however, a shift in my personal involvement with the facility now that we’ve opened. Going to the office day-in and day-out, I am regularly confronted with the variety of matters needing attention both inside and out. Six plus acres and a 21,000 sq. ft. building present a sizable stewardship. How’s that for understatement? Quite frankly, it exceeds the demands of two staff pastors, an assistant, and five elders and five deacons working as hard as they can.

Dear ones, we simply must own this, all of us covenant members, together. The SDA days are gone. We can’t call the landlord anymore. And we simply don’t have the budget to pay for all upkeep, though we have outsourced a good bit of it. We need volunteers willing to serve in the day of His power (Psa. 110:3).

How can you help?

First, if you see something that needs attention, if you possibly can, jump on it. Pull a weed, haul a limb, pick up the trash, dust the shelf, clean the smudge, etc. If you can’t dispatch it yourself for whatever reason, call it to our attention in the office and we will get someone who can.

Second, plan to participate in  at least one or two work parties in the next calendar year. We will call them regularly. We have no choice, especially at this time of the year in the tropics where stuff grows like crazy. If Saturdays don’t suit you due to work or other responsibilities, how about volunteering to come in sometime during the week? Let Greg or me know and we will be happy to put you on assignment at a time that works for you.

Please don’t anybody panic over this post. I not tempted in the least to bail from burnout. I’ve never felt healthier in my adult life. And I am more excited about ministry at OGC than ever now that we have a home. But please count this a gentle reminder that a new day has come. We have a mega-responsibility now to steward. If we spread the weight of that on everyone’s shoulders, no one should collapse under the strain, including me.

Many, many thanks.

A Simple Strategy for Battling Burnout

Not many gray hairs graced the Acts 29 Network conference I attended this week in Orlando.

The brothers above (left), however, Ray Ortlund Jr. and Sam Storms, were among the exceptions. Scott Thomas (right), president of the movement, engaged them in Q & A at the close of the conference.

Among the questions submitted by conferees came a request for ways to avoid ministerial burnout. Since burnout, fatigue, and discouragement afflict lots of folks along with pastors, I thought I would pass on Dr. Ortlund’s excellent prescription.

Choose a promise of God for the particular season of struggle in your life and wave it daily as a banner over your life.

For example, if you find yourself facing financial hardship you might choose Phil. 4:19.

Caught in the clutches of anxiety? Commit Phil. 4:6-7 to memory.

Feeling abandoned or lonely? Claim Heb. 13:5b.

Suffering persecution? First Peter 5:10 fits the bill.

Fighting disease or illness? Second Corinthians 12:9 carried me through cancer.

Growing weary in waiting? Isaiah 40:31 will lift you on eagle wings.

You get the idea.

There is a reason that 2 Peter 1:4 refers to the gift of God’s promises as precious and very great. Among others it is because they will sustain us over the long haul and help keep us in the race, if we raid the armory of Scripture, load them in our hearts, and wield them like spiritual weapons in our everyday warfare.

Why not go to the Word and ask God to give you a promise right now for your circumstances whatever they may be?