Ministerial stress and how to beat it
Why is being a minister so stressful? And what can we do about it? Rodger Charlton has a diagnosis and remedy
Stress affects everyone, in all walks of life, but there are particular reasons why ministers experience it. They are required to be a preacher, teacher, pastor, leader and role model in a rapidly changing, secularised society. They face increasing demands as ever smaller numbers of ministers are stretched over the same number of churches. Sometimes they are isolated in their work, without the support of colleagues, while church members and elders may not be willing to share the workload. They have to manage complex relationships, and offer support to people whose problems in life lead to dependency.
Ministers often find that people have unrealistic expectations of them and face endless demands on their time. Working during other people’s weekends and evenings, with time off when others are working, the boundaries between leisure, work and worship become blurred. Given their vocation, it is difficult to be off duty and guarantee one’s personal time and so ‘switch off’. We need to ask how long a minister can work flat out, fulfilling the many roles expected of them.
It is easy for ministers to develop perfectionist ideals and view their work theologically as imperfect and second best. This should be cautioned against…
Rodger Charlton is a GP and medical officer to the United Reformed Church. He is a non-stipendiary minister and Professor of Undergraduate Primary Care Education at Leicester University Medical School
This is an extract from an article that was published in the April 2019 edition of Reform