CARTERSVILLE — Jeremy Morton is a young pastor, age 34, in a large, growing church. The demands of any pastorate are significant, but the larger the church, the larger the responsibilities. Jeremy is the kind of pastor who loves people and likes to stay connected with his flock on a regular basis. That kind of personal-touch ministry takes time, which he is more than willing to give.
Morton is also in the process of building a staff and casting a vision for First Baptist Church, responsibilities which require much prayer, faith, discernment, and time.
The Cartersville First Baptist pastor is also a splendid preacher who carefully and systematically crafts expository sermons, a responsibility requiring more time and spiritual energy than most laymen can fathom.
Jeremy is also in the midst of writing a dissertation for his doctorate at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth – a dissertation that happens to be on homiletics, or preaching. Jeremy and his wife, Carrie, have three young children: Zeke (7), Madie (5), and Abe (2), which requires plenty of time and energy.
Morton recently stated, “Burnout is one of the causalities of growth. I have never pastored a church with a worship attendance of 1,100, so I must admit that there is much I am learning on the fly.
“I would be a classic candidate for burnout if I had not become more disciplined, created more margins, more boundaries in my life and delegated more responsibilities to my staff.”
There is a website, pastorburnout.com, that provides some alarming statistics on pastors’ burnout. For example:
- 25 percent of pastors don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
- 33 percent felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
- 33 percent say that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family
- 40 percent of pastors and 47 percent of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
- 56 percent of pastors’ wives say they have no close friends.
- 57 percent would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
- 90 percent work more than 50 hours a week.
- 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Morton has found five things that have helped him to avoid burnout. First, he stated that his wife, Carrie, is incredibly supportive and a great encourager in his ministry. He declared, “I don’t see how pastors make it without a great, understanding, supportive wife.
“Second, It would be difficult to prevent burnout without a church that is also understanding and cooperative; and First Baptist Cartersville is that kind of church.”
The third thing Morton mentioned was his connection with the Lord. He indicated that a personal devotional life is of ultimate importance. He explained, “Sometimes we may fail to pray, because we are writing or ‘tweeting.’ John Piper has stated, ‘Twitter and Facebook will be evidence on the day of judgment that prayerlessness was not for lack of time.’”
Fourth, Morton mentioned three books that have been enormously helpful to him. The first book, Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion, provides leaders/pastors the tools necessary to recognize and overcome burnout and provides a new vision for greater levels of both rest and productivity.
The second book is Leaders Who Last by David Kraft. The author contends that the Christ life is like a race, but too many Christians stumble, burn out, or veer off the track. It is not a given that a leader will finish well. This book was written to help leaders establish their goals, refine their character, and resolve to finish well.
The third book mentioned by Morton is Adrenalin and Stress by Archibald Hart. Since stress is a real problem in our fast-paced society this book offers practical advise on how to deal with stress and how to relax.
Morton explained, “Hart states that the human body can only produce enough adrenalin each day for six energy bursts. There are any number of things that can require a burst of energy – visiting a family that has lost a loved one, a staff meeting, calling on hospitalized church members, having to make a difficult decision, facing a ton of emails that need to be answered, having chapel for a high school sporting event, or going to a son’s baseball game. When you exceed your six bursts of adrenalin you burn out if you have not learned how to deal with stress.
‘Finally,” Morton added, “I can’t overstate the importance of physical exercise. I was overweight at age 30. I felt terrible. I prayed, got with my wife and some friends, and developed an exercise plan. I now am in the best shape of my life since high school. I work out five mornings a week– very early in the morning. I love it. It has helped me sleep better each night and been a major asset in my daily fight against stress. Exercise, eating well, and sleep are huge.”
The Bible gives us some very important lessons on how to deal with stress, like “Cast all your cares (anxieties) upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pt. 5:7). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding will guard your heats and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).
Most pastors have preached on each of these passages in an effort to provide solace, comfort, and counsel to troubled and anxious souls. Indeed, the Bible is very sensitive about the psychological needs of human beings, and yet pastors are notoriously slow to practice what they preach.
Those who study the life of Jesus will do well to observe the way he ordered His ministry. He was in complete control of his work and his rest. Pastors and church leaders need to follow His example and take care of themselves. Jeremy Morton is learning to do that as a young pastor.