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Are You Distressed?

Blog: Distressed

Self-Evaluation Tools for the Weary

By Scott Thomas

Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffmann in their book, Preventing Ministry Failure provided a valuable test to evaluate a pastor’s level of stress.[1]

Personally respond to each statement, using a scale of 0 to 3:

0=Rarely/Never feel this way
1=Occasionally/Sometimes feel this way
2=More often than not feel this way
3=Regularly/Frequently feel this way

Next, have a spouse or a close friend (someone who will be totally honest with you) rate you on the same items based on their perception of you. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their perception. Just ask of their honest opinion and accept it with humility. Often, others who care for us deeply will see us more objectively than we do.

Total each score at the bottom of its respective column.


  1. ____            I am exhausted and run down
  2. ____            I become easily frustrated
  3. ____            I have a tendency to be overly critical of others and/or myself
  4. ____            The less time I can spend with people, the better
  5. ____            If I could change my job, I would
  6. ____            I am spiritually numb
  7. ____            I am under constant pressure at work and/or home
  8. ____            I wonder why I’m even in ministry
  9. ____            I have no one I can share my problems with
  10. ____            I am spending more time reading, watching TV, sleeping or on the Internet
  11. ____            I have lost my interest for sex
  12. ____            I no longer spend time in hobbies I previously enjoyed
  13. ____            I use alcohol/prescription drugs/sleep aids to manage my moods/emotions
  14. ____            I don’t have a clear vision for what God has called me to do
  15. ____            I feel unappreciated by my family and/or those to whom I minister
  16. ____            I find myself working more and accomplishing less
  17. ____            I am enjoying my ministry less over time
  18. ____            I don’t spend time alone with God
  19. ____            I tend to harbor unresolved resentment or bitterness
  20. ____            I have become more egotistical or cocky over time
  21. ____            I feel sorry for myself
  22. ____            My desk is messy or disorganized
  23. ____            When I have a few moments to myself, I feel as if I have to be doing something
  24. ____            When responsibilities demand more time, I cut fun activities to get them done
  25. ____            I need to feel in control of my surroundings
  26. ____            I need to keep working on something until it is done right
  27. ____            I expect things of myself that are far beyond anyone else’s expectation of me
  28. ____            I need to be seen by others as well put together
  29. ____            My sense of humor is missing
  30. ____            I am not very flexible
  31. ____            I have a tendency to set unrealistic goals for myself and/or others
  32. ____            I have difficulty relaxing
  33. ____            I rarely take time off; when I do, it’s often for being sick
  34. ____            I tend to be an impulsive person and make decisions hastily
  35. ____            I hesitate over decisions, not wanting to make a mistake
  36. ____            I normally live in the extremes; it’s usually all or nothing with me
  37. ____            I may appear confident on the outside, but inside I feel insecure
  38. ____            Others have expressed a concern over my level of stress
  39. ____            I have activities into which I retreat to avoid negative feelings
  40. ____            I don’t know how I feel

           ____            Total Score (0-120)

Relatively healthy ministers, [according to the authors], will have a small total, typically less than 40. Larger totals should be reason for concern. There is not an arbitrary cutoff for “healthy.”  Distress that remains unchecked grows slowly over time. Therefore, the larger the total the more you might want to be concerned about your general level of distress.

[Scott:] I did this test for myself recently and  asked my wife to independently score what she thought my level of distress was with the same test. I totalled 54 and she scored me at 56. Then, we compared answers, especially the areas with a variance of two points, and we talked about the level of stress I may be feeling and how we can respond accordingly. Interestingly, I do not feel stressed and equally my wife feels as though I am in a healthy state of emotions. For me, a healthy score could be 50 or below (I do have room for improvement), while others may need to operate at a level of 40 or below. The most beneficial thing you can do is to honestly evaluate yourself and then discuss it with your spouse to determine in what areas of your life you are not living with the belief that Jesus is the most satisfying aspiration of your life and that you can rest (calmly) in your identity in Christ.

[1] Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman, Preventing Ministry Failure (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2007), p. 111-114.