Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Passion Fatigue

What follows is an adaptation of an article by Sheri Ferguson that I read in The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s March/April 2006 periodical. The article, titled ‘Compassion Fatigue’, is dealing specifically with natural disaster trauma and recovery from such events as hurricane Katrina but has many other avenues of application. We will choose the avenue where many pastors have either run out of gas, left skid marks lining the street, or drew a crowd with break stands and smoke shows. Welcome to Burnout Avenue.

Pastoring actually is not really that hard of a job. In fact, when it comes to schedules and workload it may seem to some outside observers to be pretty slack. However, any of us who have spent any time at all working as ‘professional clergy’ could tell countless stories of the huge emotional toll and output that a pastor must endure. Though one of our greatest assets may be our passion for people and the local church it also very well may be one of our greatest liabilities. Passion may be the very thing that destroys a ministry.

Passion Fatigue, as defined by postalpedia, is what happens to our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual states of being after prolonged exposure to intensity. We, like that pretty girl who smiled the bright and happy smile of someone who long ago learned not to show what she was feeling, allow the world to see passionate ministry while our own lives are slowly and surely decomposing in the compost heap of ‘blah’.

Symptoms of blah include depression, anxiety, grief, dread, fear, rage, shame, avoidance, numbing, suspiciousness, cynicism, poor self-esteem, sleep difficulties, muscle tensions, headaches, cognitive shifts in how one views the world, family and relationship problems, increases in addictive behavior, and more time spent reading Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. Mark Driscol, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seatte, offers some of his research and idea's here. Worth the read.

Passion fatigue changes who you are.

9 comments:

Derwyn said...

Definitely worth paying attention to. I've recently read Mark Driscoll's book "Confessions of a Reformission Rev", and he lays out there his experiences in building Mars Hill Church. What is refreshing is that he doesn't make himself out to look good, but shows how God's been working in spite of him in so many ways. In the book, Mark talks about how he burned out and what he had to change to avoid it from happening again.

I think that violating the Sabbath is one of the biggest sins committed by pastors. Read Numbers 15:32-36. You don't take a day off...you die.

It's still true today!

Nexus said...

I am there right now brother. Thank you for looking out for me.

Dan said...

I loved that Mars Hill article. So true. It's stuff I never thought about when I was a student. Realizing we're not invincible is scary, but I think it's one of the healthiest things we can do.

Jeremy Postal said...

Hey yo
The chad sent me this sermon link that goes along with Driscol's blog. I just finished listening to it....wow. I think every pastor should take the hour or so and listen to it...
http://theresurgence.com/conferences/reform_and_resurge_2006

-Jer

The Drew said...

Good Stuff Jeremy! I wonder how many of us go through this without knowing what is going on or that anything is wrong.

Boomer said...

I'm listening to that message right now, but I have a thought before it. Could there be something more to this burnout then we're seeing? It's seems like a growing and widespread problem? How could it be God's plan for our churches and leaders.

Boomer said...

I finished that message. There's a lot of good content in their. I agree with a lot of what he's saying, but I feel like he's left something out. The crux of the message essetially says that every trial is a good thing. I do believe good can come out of it and does, but I get the feeling that he's got the bear attack mantality, lay down and play dead. At what point do we persevere and at what point do we seek to change our circumstances? Is that a part of the good and the perseverance, the clarity of mind enough to make good choices in the face of adversity? Basically fight or flight. When do we fight it out and when do we peace out? What does everyone think?

Steve said...

I think we need to remember God is in control. Our reliance on him, should determine our actions.
However, the question of flight or fight has plagued me for sometime now. I think it's relying on discernment... what seems like the most positive outcome (not necessarily seemingly the best at the moment). If you're being attacked by a bear and you play dead, that's probably smarter than fighting back, however, if your on a slope, you can essentially fight the bear back, if the slope is big and long enough to create a battle.. if the bear chases you down hill, watch it stumble, and you've essentially won the battle. Just a thought.

Jeremy Postal said...

It is truely hard to formulate anything that would work accross the board....however....my reaction has always been that no matter what there is another way...potentially a harder way...but another.

A good excercise that I have used for years when it comes to making decisions is my '3-pitches' rule. I try and give every problem three solution options so that I don't have to/need to go with only one. I can choose the best option from three options. If all three options are stikes...well...then your out.

The hard thing is that too often when we are driving down burnout avenue we are only thinking about one thing....being burnout. It is much the same as when you are driving down make-out avenue...you are only thinking about one thing; the great view. Right?