|Earlier this year my doctor told me to read a book on Burnout. She’s a little bit younger than me, has a two-year old at home, a medical practice, and oh yes, that other thing, Covid-19 and medical students to supervise at this time. She said the book had helped her with her own issues around burnout, stress and what it was doing to her physically and emotionally. I appreciated her honesty during my well-visit, and ordered the book.
It’s been sitting on my shelf of “books to be read” for nearly a year. Along with all my other books. One of the ways the pandemic-exhaustion is showing up in my life these days is I’m not reading as many books as I usually do. I have all these lovely, interesting books I’m desperate to read, but my mind and spirit just do not seem to be able to settle down enough. So, I’m listening to lots of podcasts, which are filling up that space in my soul. For now, that has to be enough. I’m hoping that during the holidays I can get back to my reading, but honestly, I just don’t know.
I bet there is something(s) that are showing up in your life too from pandemic-exhaustion.
The other thing that’s showing up for us pastors is watching our colleagues tap out and wondering when we will be next. It’s scary. No, it’s terrifying.
Pastors are leaving the ministry in droves right now. At a zoom meeting, a longtime colleague of mine in another part of our Synod said, “I’m 60, and I don’t know any pastor who isn’t 58 and older who hasn’t called the Board of Pensions to run their numbers and see how to retire early.” Another good friend of mine just told her ministry that at the end of 2022 she’s done. She’s going to take the financial hit and retire at 60. She’s just done and feels she’s not doing ministry in a way that is faithful to her sense of call. Clergy my age in their middle years of ministry and life are a bit more stuck. Kids are in college or headed there. We haven’t paid down enough of our mortgages yet. Jumping to another career works for some, but the Board of Pensions are serious golden handcuffs that are very hard to take off. Are we the frogs in the pot who feel the heat rising and wonder to ourselves, “is now the time to jump before I am cooked?”
And then there is the guilt. We are pastoring people who are also burned out, also struggling with their sense of call wherever they are planted. Nothing feels all that fixable right now.