Compassion Fatigue

BurnoutDear Christian Counselor:


Working in ministry is tough and the hours and responsibilities are many. How do I set boundaries, yet still be loving and truly motivated for the cause of Christ and not for the notice of people?


– Pouring Out and Pooped


Dear Pooped:


I’m not sure there should really be a difference between working in Christian ministry and working in any other vocation; we are all called to love and serve wherever we are.  But as someone who has done both, I can testify that there really is a difference.  Part of the difference involves the demands we place on ourselves and the rest comes from others’ expectations of those in the helping professions.


We teach people what to expect by the way we respond to them.  Do you jump out of bed at midnight to comfort the grieving family you barely know on the other end of the phone?  Or do you pray for them and contact their closest friends to do the comforting?   I have a phrase I say often to myself, and I will give it to you, too: “They have a Savior, and it’s not me.”  The guiding rule of Christ is love for God and man, so the question is not how can I protect myself, but how can I love God and others well?   I know that I cannot do that when I am frazzled, exhausted and frustrated.


For me, the key is to look into the face of Christ and know that I am following the path that HE has laid out for me, not the path I have crafted for myself or that others have tried to construct for me.  When I know that I am OK with God, then I can say yes or no to others in greater freedom – even when they may be disappointed with my response.

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I Don’t Like My Church!

A picture of Pisgah Baptist Church in Four Oak...Dear Christian Counselor,

My dad is the pastor of a small Baptist church. My brother and sisters and I are the only young people there over the age of 10 and under the age of 25. I absolutely am sick and tired of going there. First of all there is no zeal for God; everybody just sits there like a bump on a log. The church has no joy. They won’t sing. We don’t have a piano player. There is no youth group whatsoever, the men there aren’t spiritually mature or disciplined, so I have no older males to look up to and no one to confide in other than my dad. But he is always working, so he doesn’t take the time to help me or my siblings. The church doesn’t seem to want to grow, move forward, reach out to the community or anything. I feel isolated, ignored, and unloved. I don’t know how to go forward, and I don’t want to become stagnant. I don’t know what to do.

– Pastor’s Son

Dear Pastor’s Son,

At this point you have two good choices: stay or go.  If you believe in Romans 8:28, then you are not stuck in a bad situation but at an exciting fork along God’s good path for your life.  If you decide to make another try at your church, I would suggest you have a heart-to-heart talk with the one man you say you can talk to, your dad. Take him out to breakfast and let him know you are feeling restless and stagnant in your faith. Ask for his suggestions to stir up some enthusiasm and find some purpose.  Could you put together a worship team?  Could you organize a community youth group or a charity project?  What passions and gifts could you contribute for the good of everyone?  For example, I know a college student who organized a 5K with hundreds of participants for the benefit of an organization dedicated to ending slavery in the world.

Your other option is to explore different churches in the area. You could begin by attending a singles’ or men’s group at another church while remaining in Sunday worship at your own. Once again, I would suggest having a good talk with your pastor/dad and explaining that you are prayerfully seeking God’s direction for your adulthood, that you want a close relationship with your father but that you are feeling the need to explore your own faith.  Be careful not to put him on the defensive by criticizing his work.  You will find that there is no perfect church or pastor but that most of them are trying to be the best grace-filled sinners that they can.  Just like you.

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