Preachers get discouraged. This post is not intended to offer any solutions, but sometimes identifying the issue or issues can be a start to addressing the challenge. Perhaps this list can also help you pray for other preachers, or pastors in your church.
Here are some reasons preachers get discouraged:
1. Lack of fruit – Almost every preacher will receive comments of gratitude after preaching, but most will realise this politeness is not the same as genuine fruit from their preaching. A lack of new life, or tangible growth can really get a preacher down. A lot of time and emotional energy can be invested over the long haul with very little tangible return on investment.
2. Loneliness – Preaching can be a strangely lonely ministry. It is easy to prepare in private and then process the post-preaching feelings in private. It can also feel lonely to be aware of the next two items:
3. Criticism – After preaching it is a strange feeling to know that a lot of people will be enjoying “roast preacher” for their Sunday lunch. Unless we have a big ego, most preachers don’t really want to be the subject of conversation. We try to make Christ the subject of conversation, but we aren’t naive to the conversations that go on! And then what if criticism is coming in from outside of our context? That will only add to the pressure.
4. Expectation – Preachers are not a different class of Christian. We struggle. We don’t have it all together. We can even say so in our preaching, and yet people still expect preachers to be “victorious” Christians. Therefore when we are struggling with temptation, with tiredness, with family life, with financial pressures, with personal and spiritual dry times, we feel the expectation that we won’t struggle and so tend to keep the struggle hidden. This circles us back up to number 2 again – loneliness.
5. Family Life – Preachers have real families. Our children fight and sin. Our marriages go through downs as well as ups. Churches tend to place expectations on spouses and children of preachers. Spouses of preachers tend to put expectations on themselves. The complexity of church life can take a massive toll on families, and even when preachers try to put family first, there will still be times when we question whether the ministry we do is worth it.
6. Lack of sleep / health – A cycle of not sleeping properly will really take the energy and joy out of life. This could be due to stress, to pastoral pressures, to family needs, to health challenges, etc. Whatever the reason, when our tanks are empty then life will feel tough.
7. Depression – Preachers can get depressed too. For those of us who don’t struggle with this it can be impossible to understand those that do. But they do. Famous preachers have struggled with extreme depression. And preachers do burn out. It is never a pretty sight. And this is where we should all be aware – burnout can be avoided.
That is a starter list of seven reasons preachers get discouraged. What would you add?