I have a lot of empathy for youth pastors and pastors. Here are these people who have a huge heart for helping others to grow spiritually and they get put in a system that teaches them theology and saddles them with the administration of programs. It’s no wonder that they burn out as they do.
I like what Eugene Peterson, author of the Message, said about his experience as a pastor: “I am good at being a program-directing Messiah and manager.” (Under the Unpredictable Plant p. 178)
Peterson makes the point that because pastors have embraced a broken paradigm of the role of pastor, they need a paradigm shift – from pastor as program director to pastor as spiritual director. It is not “the formulation of something new,” he says, “but the recovery of something original.”
He goes on to say:
“The world of religion generates a huge market for meeting all the needs that didn’t get met in the shopping mall. Pastors are conspicuous in this religious market place and are expected to come up with the products that give customer satisfaction.
“Since the needs seem legitimate enough, we easily slip into the routines of merchandising moral advice and religious comfort. Before long we find that we are program directors in a flourishing business. We spend our time figuring out ways to attractively display god-products.
“We become skilled at pleasing the customers. Before we realize what has happened, the mystery and love and majesty of God, to say nothing of the tender and delicate subtleties of souls, are obliterated by the noise and frenzy of the religious marketplace.”
(Peterson pp. 174-175)
Check out Peterson’s books for more on this: