By Andy Jung
CBFNC Associate Executive Coordinator
The world seems to be upside down, inside out. There is a level of collective anxiety that is unsettling. Everyone is on edge and it seems like one more thing will tip us over. Whether it is the world battling a global pandemic or our nation wrestling with racial justice and systemic injustice, we are all frayed and at wits end.
In the midst of it all, pastoral leaders all across our fellowship are working hard to keep their congregations unified and focused on the mission of God’s kingdom. They are leading the call for justice and mercy of God’s kingdom. They are listening to their people to hear the cries of brokenness and grief. All the while, they are gathering information and making the best decisions possible to determine when and how to re-open their church buildings safely. Even though most pastors are leaning on lay leaders who have expertise in different fields to help make these difficult decisions, at the end of the day, right or wrong, I know many of them will take on the ultimate responsibility.
A couple of months ago, a national Baptist leader tweeted, “If you open your church, you don’t love your neighbor. If You don’t open your church, you’re a compromised coward. False dichotomies dividing the body of Christ. Local situations are different and responsible pastors will follow appropriate guidelines. Have some grace, folks.” When it comes to re-entering the church building, this describes the plight of many pastors.
In this highly politicized world, it seems most of our pastors are caught in the middle of being bold and courageous to speak out against racial injustices and how to safely re-gather the congregation during the pandemic. On top of all of that, pastors are still preparing sermons, making physically distant visits, planning for worship, leading funerals, and handling many other administrative needs of the church.
I have now been away from a local church leadership for 17 months but I have not forgotten the weight of leading a congregation. Prior to being a pastor, I thought I knew what it would take to lead a congregation as an associate pastor. I was lucky to have great mentors whom I watched closely. Yet, there was no way for me to know the weight of being the pastor until I experienced it for myself. While I loved every minute of it, I must admit the weight of leadership laid heavy on me. I can’t imagine the weight that our pastoral leaders bear in this chaotic world in which we now live.
In a recent Barna survey, 41% of pastors admitted they were exhausted and 31% shared they were experiencing emotional burnout. Furthermore, only 25% of the pastors felt appreciated and 1 out of 6 pastors felt loved. These are troubling admissions. Even though I recognize we all feel exhausted and burned out from the enduring effects of the civil unrest and the global pandemic, the toll it is taking on our pastoral leaders should not be overlooked. If we remain on this course, the Church will watch our pastors walk away from their calling in order to maintain their emotional, spiritual and physical health.
So, what can I do? I will express my love and concern for my pastor. I know she isn’t looking for praise or recognition. I know he won’t ask for compliments or even compensation. She serves because she loves God and loves her people. Yet, I am certain he could use some encouragement today. Most of all, I will support him or her no matter what decisions are made because we are all in this together.