In her book, Isolation: A place of Transformation in the Life of A Leader, Trebesch explores why Christian leaders tend to enter into periods of isolation. The author suggests, that while these periods of isolation are painful, they are profitable and helpful to an individual’s ministry. It is during these times that a pastor will draw and grow closer to God. Having gone through an extended period where I have been separated from my family and friends, I know the value of drawing close to Christ and the life changing benefit that come with this type of trial.
Trebesch explains that there are two types of isolation experiences: involuntary and voluntary. The term that she coins is ministry isolation, which is “an event in ministry that causes a pastor or leader to experience the feeling of isolated from God, others, and family.” Early in my pastorate, I attended a new minister conference held at Wesleyan Headquarters. One area they addressed was ministry burnout. Pastors are leaving the ministry at a growing rate and the trend is continuing to rise. According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010), 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure. Everyday day, pastors are called upon to provide help and comfort to individuals with very little support systems in place. I have spoken with many pastors who feel alone and cut off from the rest of society. They are put on a pedestal and expected to have perfect lives, and many don’t feel safe to share their struggles and failures in life with others.
Personally, I never have experienced ministry burnout. I believe one reason for this is due to my background in business. Working in the high stress environment of the corporate world, one develops a “thick skin” and learns to function in a very fast paced and highly driven climate. When I moved into full time Christian service, I found that it hard to work in what I considered a “low speed non-stress” environment. I know that many experience stress in ministry, but compared to the outside world it is often hard for me to see it. My wife has also experienced the same phenomenon when she moved into Christian service. Like myself, she came from a very fast paced corporate world. It has taken her time to adjust to the slower pace of the ministry – she often says, “they have no idea what work stress really is.”
The most stressful things that my wife and I have experienced in ministry is the “no or low pay” for full time Christian workers in comparison to other industries. Not being able to adequately take care of our family is something that we were not expecting when we moved into ministry. Fortunately, we have our corporate skills and experience that allow us to mitigate the lower pay. But, many pastors don’t have other training or skills that they can use outside of ministry to bring adequate support to their family. It is shameful how Christians treat the pastors and ministry workers, and many organizations are exploiting them. While there are churches that do support their staff, it is unfortunately that many do not. I believe pastors struggle handling stress due to personal financial issues, or because they are working multiple jobs trying to make ends meet. Bivocationalism drives much stress. It is time that Western churches stand up and do what’s right. They need to take care of their pastors and families.
 Trebesch, Shelley.
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