Frantically Leading the Flock

By James Racine October 14, 2015


  • 33% of pastors felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • 75% of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.

It was 2:01 pm, according to my watch, and I was running late (literally running) for my philosophy class. The only door to the lecture hall was at the bottom of 30-some rows of on-looking students—right at the front of the class. As I barreled up the last flight of stone stairs outside the classroom, I found my professor sitting on a stoop, notes in hand, with nothing and no one bothering him or keeping him. He extended a kind greeting, by name, and then stood up and walked with me into class. Though there was nothing else remarkable about this encounter, the peace my professor displayed sticks with me a decade later.

Fast forward five years later, but now I am a teacher. It is about five minutes to the hour, and once again I am running late. Several dozen students are about to enter through a set of double doors, and I am behind the media booth frantically trying to finalize my slides for the message that evening. Fifteen minutes earlier, our adult volunteer meeting ended—ten minutes behind schedule. Thirty minutes before that, I had entered the building with a student I was mentoring over dinner. Before picking up that student, I had been in my office writing my sermon, delayed by a staff lunch that lasted almost two hours.

As I trace my steps back, I don’t feel like any of my activities were a waste of time, easily removed to prevent this chain reaction of tardiness. I needed to connect with staff over lunch to build camaraderie. I was content with my message. My discipleship strategy required that I meet with this key student leader. I couldn’t drop the pre-service meeting with my volunteers; it was a new and well-received preparation for the evening ahead. All of these things were good, but I still didn’t have enough time. If only I had 10 more minutes to finish these slides, I thought to myself.

Unfortunately, this pace and routine were not out of the ordinary for me as a young youth pastor. You’ve probably been there too. There’s no pause button in ministry. We either carry the peace of Christ with us into our environments, or we don’t. Sadly, most of us are frantically leading our flocks, and failing at the one thing Jesus calls us to.

“In the flurry of serving in the name of God, we forget about connecting with God.”

In Psalm 27, David speaks of his desire for “the one thing.” In Luke11, Jesus says to frantic Martha, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” While we as pastors, volunteers, administrators, and parents can be experts at loving students, loving our team, pouring our heart into our messages, and giving our best efforts to prepare for youth group, we often neglect the one thing that is most important: our relationship with God.

In the flurry of serving in the name of God, we forget about connecting with God. And while this is important in and of itself, it is also the most significant part of us that we can bring to our students. They notice when we are frantic, when we are tired, when we are unprepared. Students notice, and we both suffer because of it.

Here are a few consequences of frantic leadership that I have witnessed.

1) Balls are dropped: By foregoing our relationship with God, we don’t actually get more done. That’s a lie. We do more in our own strength, which results in fatigue, absent mindedness, and neglect.

2) Students come second: When we do ministry in a frenzy, we send students the message that we are too busy for them. We live with a private sense of panic, resulting in a public display of unapproachability.

3) Our souls suffer: Maybe not overnight, or a week or even a month, but slowly our souls begin to dry, like a browning Christmas tree left up until February.

In Revelation 2, the Lord instructs John to tell the church of Ephesus this: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance. … But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Take time today, perhaps even right now, to put down the work—no matter how good or how important—and to pursue your first love. Lead from a deep sense of the peace of Christ, rather than from the frenzy of frantic ministry.

CC Image courtesy John Shappell on Flickr.

Statistic from www.pastorburnout.com