Acknowledging the Toll of the Pandemic on Ministry Leaders


Churches and their members may not fully appreciate the strain the pandemic has placed on their pastors and other ministry leaders. Mike Bonem urges congregations to take heed of the stress carried by leaders in this busy and chaotic time and develop plans to respond.

I want to share a secret with you. It’s not the kind of secret that is confidential. Rather, it’s the kind that is mostly invisible but needs to be brought to light. The secret is that the last 15 months have been very difficult for pastors and other church staff leaders.

The toll of the pandemic on ministry leaders

We’ve heard a lot about the incredible stress on medical professionals, teachers, and front-line workers. But we’ve heard very little about the toll on ministry leaders. You may be asking, “What toll? They scaled back during the pandemic.” So, let’s take a closer look.

Leaders who previously found deep fulfillment in comforting church members that were suffering and grieving were forced to do their ministry remotely. Pastors accustomed to reading people’s faces as they preached have been forced to deliver sermons to a camera. A decision that could be made in five minutes pre-COVID-19 now takes over an hour and often has to be revisited later. And any decision related to regathering can trigger intense scrutiny and sometimes nasty emails. These are just a few of the things they’re dealing with on the job, not to mention personal challenges like remote school for their children or serious COVID-19 cases in their families.

If you think everything is fine, think again.

You may say, “Other pastors might be struggling, but ours seems to be OK.” While I hope that is the case, it is more likely that your pastor’s version of “OK” is more of a facade than a reality. Many pastors don’t want to burden the congregation with their problems, so they choose to suffer in silence.

If you’re thinking everything is fine now that the pandemic is receding, think again. There are still many questions about the future — programming decisions, financial uncertainties, staffing needs. The leaders charged with providing these answers are tired and frayed from the experiences of the last year.

Knowledge calls for action.

Now you know. And your knowledge calls for action. So here are three important questions you can ask your pastor or ministry leader:

  • How is it with your soul?
  • What plans have you made to rest and recharge this summer?
  • How can we help?

If the leader’s answer to any of these questions is evasive, ask again. Once you have real answers, let the Holy Spirit guide you to a plan that will demonstrate your care for your pastor and your church.

This article is adapted from a blog post on titled A Letter to Board Members. Used by permission.

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About Author

Mike Bonem is a facilitator and consultant with Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF). Previously, he was Executive Pastor of West University Baptist Church in Houston. He is the author or coauthor of several books. He recently wrote The Art of Leading Change: Ten Perspectives on the Messiness of Ministry (Fortress Press, 2022), available from the publisher and at Cokesbury and Amazon. He blogs at

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