Home > Culture > Pastorpain: my journey in burnout

Pastorpain: my journey in burnout

Self-published (actuateconsulting.com.au). Gold Coast, QLD
RRP: $16

“I signed on, fought hard, won victories, but now sit on the sidelines unable to get back in,” writes Steve Bagi who, after 21 years in pastoral ministry, including cross-cultural missionary work and a senior pastor role, burned out.

In the midst of his recovery journey, Bagi decided to process the personal, role and local church dynamics that brought him to this place of immense pain and loss. In so doing, Bagi has recycled his pain and made something positive out of it.

With refreshing honesty and an earthy, conversational style, Bagi holds up a mirror to his own burnout-prone style of ministry (“No excuses, I stuffed up!”), and then directs much of the book to church leaders and congregations urging them to consider their contribution to pastor pain.

Indicating that he knew from the beginning that ministry would cost him and his family, Bagi touches on ‘churchworld’ culture – from the ‘nice people’ to the ‘saboteurs’ – concluding that they each contribute to ‘unnecessary and avoidable pain’ for ministers.

Bagi states that it was this, and the destructive ‘fine print’ of ministry that most undermined him: “…at the end of the day”, Bagi writes, “it wasn’t the job description that I couldn’t fill, but the fine print”; that is, the unwritten, but extremely powerful, expectations and cultural norms of ‘churchworld’.

Pastorpain was written by a Queensland pastor and published in the last three months. It is therefore local and current, adding something fresh to the clergy literature market.

Pastorpain is a good read for ministers (at just over 100 pages, you can read it in a couple of hours), but it is particularly helpful for church councils seeking to understand and protect their minister (and manse family) from the unnecessary costs of ministry.

Indeed, Bagi states that he wrote this personal journey ‘for the church’, rather than for pastors.

Review by Meryem Brown a Psychologist and member of Redcliffe Uniting Church