Two Realities of Burnout and Ministry

By Scott Couchenour

ScreamingThe first reality is that we live in an unprecedented era of incredible resources. Information is literally at our fingertips. I google the word “stress” and get 191,000,000 hits in 0.08 seconds. On the first page of results, I can learn what good stress is; what bad stress is; how to avoid stress that causes physical ailments; what diet does to contribute to stress; and on and on.

The second reality is we see ominous statistics of widespread burnout and depression among clergy and other ministry leaders. We read the statistics. Pastors are having affairs. Ministry leaders are hitting the wall and exiting the ministry prematurely. Some are battling depression.

So, the problem is not a lack of resources. If resources were the answer, 191,000,000 hits would be more than enough to tackle the problem many pastors face in ministry.

I believe the gap between the resources and the ailments can be filled through resourcing and coaching; through accountability networks and peer groups; through consistent Bible study and adequate rest. The drum must be consistently beat: “Yeah Ministry! Boo Burnout!”

It’s important to make the distinction between “burnout” and “burn”. The old hymn, “Let Me Burnout For Thee” is greatly misunderstood. It’s one thing to give your all to God’s call on your life. It’s quite another to give it without resting and replenishing. Proper “burn” requires rhythm – a swing from exertion of energy and a swing back to rest, then back to ministry, and back to rest again.

This concept can be wrapped up in what someone once said: “We don’t rest from our work, we work from our rest.” This means we place a premium on rest so that we are able to give our all when God needs us.

Scott Couchenour

Scott Couchenour is a certified life coach and founder of Serving Strong, a resourcing and coaching service to ministry leaders. Serving Strong exists to eliminate burnout from the ministry equation. He is also VP of Operations for Cogun, Inc., a company that helps churches expand their ministry facilities through consulting, design coordination, and construction. Scott flies around in an empty nest in Ohio with his wife of over 26 years. He has two grown children. Scott believes in the local church and pursues a God-given passion to enable pastors to serve strong. You can visit Scott's website at and follow him on Twitter. Follow @servingstrong