I wanted to expand on this thought regarding success and the three things that Malcolm Gladwell says are the most important ingredients to a satisfying job: (1) autonomy, (2) complexity, and (3) a connection between effort and reward.
It seems to make a great deal of sense in the context of the church. Pastors have this interesting conundrum. We have high job satisfaction. In fact, recent studies have shown that clergy have the most job satisfaction than any other profession.
So then, why do we have such a high burnout rate? It seems odd that the two go together.
I wonder if these three factors have something to do with it. We do have autonomy, in a sense. Most ministers work within a community, and (hopefully) have a lot of checks and balances, but (at least in Presbyterian Churches) no one can dictate what we say in the pulpit. And if you think about it, to have an hour a week where we can be creative is an amazing amount of time.
But, when that autonomy is hindered it causes problems. For instance, if you’re an associate pastor and the senior is a relentless, micro-managing control freak, and you can’t seem to go from day-to-day without him or her pointing out something you ought to do, or something that you did wrong yesterday, then that can make your job into a pounding headache.
Or, if you’re a solo pastor and you have a governing body that functions with a lack of trust and they like to look over, say, your cell phone bill and ask what each and every line is about, then your chance of satisfaction will be greatly strained.
When our autonomy is compromised a great deal, the job can become miserable.
When we look at complexity, I can see a lot of that in our jobs. I have learned so much about everything from the Bible to the boiler. There’s a huge knowledge base that’s foundational to a pastor’s job—community issues, poverty, homelessness, demographics, and the environment. Then there are skill sets that we need to develop—preaching, counseling, managing, teaching, and financial development. Then, of course, there are the biblical studies, theological concepts, ecclesial movements, spiritual disciplines, and Christian education pieces that we can continually learn about and practice. All of this, plus whatever else becomes your passion while you’re at your job (writing, in my case), can make this one of the most satisfying professions that a person can be in.
When this sense of complexity is gone, then we can dry up. Much of what we learn is self-motivated. And there can be desert times, when we don’t meet up with our colleagues, we feel isolated, and we get really scorched. The same fights over the budget can become monotonous, or a person is stuck in a tiny pigeonhole that they don’t particularly enjoy (like, children’s education) for their entire career, and the job can get boring.
Finally, there is that connection between effort and reward. Which can be obvious sometimes, and then other times it’s terrible.
Since being in the ministry, I’ve learned to set goals. I know that some pastors hate this, because they say that ministry is not about the attendance, and the buildings, and the cash. It’s not about the things that you can count. I understand this.
But, sometimes, I like to count. I like having things that I can point to and say, “While I was at the church, we started that program” or “we built that garden” or “we’re learning to pray” or “we have a gazillion children that we didn’t have before.” I just like to know the connection between my effort and the results. I think our entire church needs to hear about those connections. After all, they’re working really hard too, and they want to be reminded of the results.
If we look at causes of burnout, the top one is financial stress, or family stress (which is often rooted in financial stress). Barring not being able to pay the mortgage or rent, it seems like we can see a lot of our reasons for burnout in these three areas.
Women (who burnout at a higher rate than men), especially, often stay in associate positions, where they don’t always have autonomy or complexity. And if there is a connection between effort and reward, most of the congregation is pointing to someone else as the reason for the accomplishments.
So what do you think? What are the causes of satisfaction or burnout that you’ve noticed? Are there things that our denominations, churches, and pastors can do to maintain autonomy and complexity? Do you think that results are important?
photo’s by ultramookie