East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 2004, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Pastoral Burnout and How to Avoid It

Adrian Dorin Giorgiov

A Hungarian Baptist pastor who had served churches for 35 years was in the process of retiring, when suddenly one morning he was unable to move or speak. Thinking he had suffered a stroke, his family called an ambulance. At the hospital the doctor's diagnosis was burnout, a word that none of the family members understood. It took several months for the pastor to recover completely.

The accumulated stress in this pastor's life included his approaching retirement, the implied expectation that he would leave the parsonage, and the certainty that he could not afford to rent or buy a house. In addition, the church was eager to find a replacement as soon as possible, even before his retirement. He felt as if the congregation did not appreciate his years in the pastorate. While other churches organized special services and large celebrations for their retiring pastors, he received a bouquet of flowers and a few words of recognition at the end of a regular Sunday morning service. He struggled with the feeling of no longer being needed. He had shared his problems with some other pastors, but did not continue to do so, and consequently had too little support and accountability. Later he became involved with a pastor's support group that facilitated his ultimate recover.

Surveying Pastoral Burnout
The present study analyzes the sources of stress and potential burnout among Hungarian Baptist pastors, focusing on accountability systems that may help alleviate the problem. Consulting Psychologists Press gave permission for its Maslach Burnout Inventory to be translated into Hungarian and to be administered to Hungarian Baptist pastors (85 in Hungary and 53 in Romania). Usable returned questionnaires totaled 102, representing 74 percent of active pastors queried.

The Toll from Overwork and Multiple Congregations
The study clearly indicates that isolation and overwork, in particular, take their toll. Based on this writer's January 2002 survey, 77.6 percent of Hungarian Baptist pastors acknowledged estrangement from some of their fellow pastors. Also, few Hungarian Baptist pastoral couples have close friends in church because shared confidential information might be compromised. In research done by Ruth Giorgiov among Hungarian Baptist pastors' wives in 1997, 100 percent said they have many acquaintances in church, but few friends.

Within the Hungarian Baptist Union, both in Hungary and Romania, pastors lead an average of 4.1 churches each. Often the pastor visits each church one Sunday a month. Serving several churches takes its toll. The study reveals that pastors who serve eight or more churches scored significantly higher on measures of depersonalization than those who serve fewer churches. Not surprisingly, Hungarian Baptist pastors are in great need of rest. Only 3.7 percent take a day off weekly and many are preaching almost every evening. They are at home on average only 1.5 nights per week.

Accountability Groups
The study brought to light that pastors' accountability to one another is an effective way of lowering burnout. Forty-eight percent share their difficulties in ministry with at least one other pastor a few times a month. The present study supports the principles of accountability and mutual encouragement found in the Bible. It also underscores the value that theologians, psychologists, and pastors place on effective mutual peer support accountability groups.

Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from Adrian Dorin Giorgiov, "The Effect of Accountability on Pastoral Stress and Burnout Among Select Hungarian Baptist Pastors," Ph.D. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002.

Adrian Dorin Giorgiov is pastor of First Hungarian Baptist Church, Oradea, Romania.

The Hungarian Baptist Church in Figures


  Hungary Romania Total
Churches 350 219* 569
Membership 11,000 8,560 19,560
Non-members who attend 5,113 3,887 9,000
Active pastors 85 53 138
Hungarian population 10,000,000 2,000,000 12,000,000
Bible institutes (none prior to 1990) 3  
Seminaries 1    
Seminary students 1980-1989 7    
Seminary students 1990-1999 137    

*Of this total, 55 were established between 1990 and 1999.

Source: Giorgiov, pp. 3-4; e-mail from author, 15 March 2004.

Hungarian Baptist Church Offices and Institutions

Hungarian Baptist Union
Dr. Kalman Meszaros, President
Benczur u. 31
Budapest 1068, Hungary
Tel: 00-36-1-352-9993
E-mail: Baptist.convention@dpg.hu

Hungarian Baptist Convention of Romania
Rev. Stephen Borzasi, President
Str. Berthelot Nr. 5
Oradea 410050, Romania
Tel: 00-40-259-415424
E-mail: rmbsz@rdslink.ro

Baptist Theological Academy and Baptist Bible Institute
Dr. Tibor Almasi, President
Benczur u. 31
Budapest 1068, Hungary
Tel: 00-36-1-342-7534

Bible Institute of Missions
Dr. Joseph Simon, President
Str. Berthelot Nr. 5
Oradea 410050, Romania
Tel: 00-40-259-413289
E-mail: bimo@rdslink.ro

Bible Institute of Missions Zalau
Rev. Joseph Kovacs, President
Str. Decebal Nr. 27
Zalau 450045, Romania
Tel: 00-40-260-633415

Adrian Dorin Giorgiov, "Pastoral Burnout and How to Avoid It," East-West Church & Ministry Report 12 (Spring 2004), 1-2.

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© 2004 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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