Ministry burnout can be a real challenge to serving the Lord in the church. There are many reasons you may find yourself in this position. Once you have determined that you are dealing with burnout, then identifying and facing those reasons is important. Only by being honest with ourselves and dealing proactively with these issues can we begin the process of putting out the fire of burnout and relighting the blaze of healthy ministry.
In the last article I looked at identifying the problem of burnout. Now lets talk about the steps we need to take to move toward an exit from burnout and a reentry into the joy of ministry.
Feeling Pastor Burnout? Here’s How to Get Back on Track – Part 2 of 2
Step 4: Work to identify those things you do that lead to burnout
Here are some examples:
I know in my case, my number one error leading to burnout was never taking time away. Those vacation days I am given are for a reason. We begin to believe, either through our own desires, and/or because we are told by those who are trying to compliment us, that worship is never as good when we are not there. This can lead us to believe that we can never leave without somehow “letting down the church.” The combination of their pressure and your own, results in you never being away.
What to do? Establishing other leaders serves to allow you to be gone while raising their ability to lead in your absence. Raising up leaders is, or at least should be, part of our ministry.
Another version of the same thing. We don’t trust anyone to help us so we continually do things on our own. This can lead to state of resentment, especially of other leaders who are good team builders and who trust their teams to cover many of the duties of running the ministry. Few things will drive you to burnout like a combination of self reliance and resentment of others.
What to do? Develop a plan for turning over aspects of your ministry to others who can be relied on to competently complete these tasks, who can plan where necessary, and who can become a team that can be just as dedicated to ministry as you are. Then step by step, release these parts into their ministry so that they make a difference in your ministry and the ministry of the church.
The next big thing
your last service or special event was amazing and so you keep pushing the bar higher each week/season, always trying to top yourself. Eventually you may not get the same results you are used to and you may see that as failure. Burnout can come quickly behind a failure if we are not careful.
What to do? Plan strategically so that there are weeks/seasons where you explore a smaller, quieter expression of faith. These times of “low output/high return” serve both to demonstrate a variety of ways to worship and also reset the palette for the return of a higher output presentation. Remember 1 Kings 19:11-12, God was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire, but in the gentle blowing. We don’t always need to be spectacular to hear the voice of God.
There are others that can bring on burnout: continually missing deadlines, procrastination, failure to plan, and on and on. Ultimately, whatever your work habits are that lead you to burnout will have to be addressed, either by a change in behavior or bringing someone onto your team who can cover your weaker areas. The combination of identifying burnout behaviors and addressing them will help you both move out of burnout and keep burnout from returning.
Step 5: Immerse yourself in scripture about God’s faithfulness in all things.
I have found that when I reach burnout it is most often because I have moved into a phase where I am relying on my own skills, abilities and spiritual strength to accomplish what I say is God’s calling on my life. What I am forgetting when I get to that stage is that I have not been called to serve on my strength alone, but through the power and grace of God. By failing to reach out for God’s support I am missing the key element of what it takes to be in ministry: God’s providence.
What to do? Pray that God will reveal in the Word what you need to hear and then go digging! Use searchable bible software or many of the free bible websites to look for specific words dealing with whatever you may be needing to hear from God. I have found this to be a very effective method to discover verses that I have either forgotten or never known.
Step 6: Find someone you can trust to talk to.
The last step that I think is a key action back to a healthy ministry is to spend time talking with someone who is a good listener. This person needs to be a trustworthy individual who can hear what you need to say (and not run to social media afterwards!) and can pray with you. They don’t necessarily need to be a problem solver but someone who can let you get all of the garbage out so that you can begin refilling with what God wants to put back into you. My experience has been that the best people for this are often not in ministry themselves, but have a heart for those who serve.
What to do? Pray and ask God to help you find someone to talk to. Make a list of people you know who might be a good listener and ask them out for coffee and a conversation. Don’t overlook that this may be the time for a professional listener in the form of someone in counseling.
Burnout is not forever, thought at times it may feel that way. Remember that you are not the first person to go through this nor will you be the last. Trust in God’s call on your life and be open to what God may have for you in this “desert time.” God’s promise is that you will be lead out. The question is, are you ready to follow where God is leading?