Pastors with ADHD Can Burn Out or Shine

A swath of energetic, charismatic ministry leaders fight for focus.

For years, Americans had an easy default when they thought of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): It was the stereotype of a distracted kid goofing off at a game or a fidgety student losing interest in class.

No one imagined a middle-aged pastor trying to finish his sermon draft late Saturday night.

But as rates of ADHD continue to rise—with an uptick in diagnoses among women and adults—the picture of the disorder has become nuanced, and more people are coming to terms with their ADHD, including in ministry.

The symptoms of ADHD can be particularly challenging for pastors, whose all-encompassing vocation often comes without the administrative help that they need.

When Chad Brooks sees a pastor with ADHD, he sees someone who will either burn out in ministry or become the future of the church.

Brooks is a pastor and coach who works with United Methodist Church (UMC) pastors through the UMC ministry Passion in Partnership. The UMC requires a midcareer strengths assessment for all pastors, and Brooks has noticed that when pastors come to him for coaching and have scored poorly in their preaching skills, they often have a clinical ADHD diagnosis.

He developed a course called “Preaching Through Distraction” to help pastors learn to work more efficiently during the week rather than using the adrenaline of procrastination to crank out a Saturday night sermon.

A growing number of pastors reach out to Brooks for one-on-one coaching because their ADHD makes paying attention in a classroom setting too difficult.

“These people are deeply passionate about people and ministry, and if we cannot figure out how to be alongside each other, we are going to miss out on things we desperately need right now,” …

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