When my husband was in seminary, he was offered the opportunity to pastor a mission church. We sold the house we had purchased and moved to the parsonage located on the church property because my husband felt we needed to be a part of the community if he was going to pastor there. Eager to serve, we dug right in. It wasn’t long, however, before he experienced the stress of being a full-time seminary student and being a mission pastor, and I was experiencing the stress of a full-time job and helping him in the work.
Since it was a mission, there were about fifteen people attending. Eventually, our congregation grew to about forty people, but it wasn’t long before we both began to experience burn-out. After about eighteen months, my husband felt led to resign the position and focus on finishing his seminary education. I will always remember the comment of one of our precious members. She said, “You have just been working too long with no help.”
A few years ago, I met a young man in his first pastorate. Although I did not attend his church and had no idea what was going on behind the scenes, I could tell from hearing him preach a few times he was going down a path toward burn-out, and he could not continue to do that forever. So I gave him some words of caution and told him he should pace himself or he would eventually burn out. I mentioned to my husband that I felt my words had fallen on deaf ears. Eventually my prediction came true. He had been trying to grow the church he pastored all alone—he became exhausted and resigned.
Please hear me when I say this: you and your wife cannot be lone rangers. You cannot be everything to everyone in your church, and you cannot do everything yourself. You must have help from your congregation. Maybe there is someone who is willing to help but is waiting to be asked. Maybe not. If your congregation is satisfied to let you do it all, then some things may need to go undone until someone else decides to step up and take on the task.
Doing everything because no one else is willing will eventually take its toll on your physical and mental health. Not to mention your family will suffer. If you are already in this situation, I encourage you to step back and take a good look at where you are headed. Consult the Father and decide what is really necessary for you to do and what you can let go. There is only one you, and you matter!
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.