What do you see as trends in seminaries regarding discernment of vocation?
I see an increasing focus on the pastor as a person””an increasing awareness of the importance of self-care and of developing strong spiritual disciplines. It used to be that seminary was a time when people’s spiritual discipline waned and their academic discipline increased. Now many seminaries emphasize integrating the spiritual, reflective process with the academic, which I think is all to the good.
We often talk about burnout as a problem among clergy. How do you understand that term?
When we see pastors who are experiencing burnout, sometimes it is simply because they are working too hard. But more often they are doing a lot of things that are not central to their sense of call. When people are working close to their sense of call and purpose and meaning, they can work really hard without feeling burned out. But when they are doing a lot of things that people are telling them should be done or that feel urgent but aren’t close to the heart, that is a strong indicator of burnout.
It’s been said that most pastors are a “quivering mass of availability,” eager to please everybody. That is a path to destruction.