It’s a common problem: you want to do more for the world and your ministry, but this can lead to burnout. Whether you’re a pastor, ministry leader, or a volunteer, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out, you’re not alone.
Some of the common signs of ministry burnout include:
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling drained (especially by people)
- Disproportionate anger
- Decrease in productivity
- Lack of joy or laughter
- Extreme fatigue
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to understand what may be causing your burnout in church leadership. Are you so consumed in working for God that you’re not working with Him? Have you (or others) set unrealistic expectations of yourself? Have you been isolating? Or maybe you simply haven’t mastered the art of saying “no.”
Whatever the cause, you’ll want to get to the root of it. In this guide, we’ll help you find ways to prevent ministry burnout so that you can continue doing God’s work and serving others.
Talk to your friends and other ministry leaders
One of the best ways to prevent ministry burnout is to talk to your friends and other leaders.
- Speaking with others can help you feel better because they often have different perspectives than you do. If they’ve dealt with similar situations or issues, they may be able to provide some insight into how they resolved their problems.
- Friends can also help you feel supported and less alone in the midst of your struggles. You might not realize how much your coworkers or friends support you until it’s clear that someone else needs their support!
Monitor your mental health
Check in with yourself. Many of the signs of ministry burnout are closely knit with mental health.
- Notice your habits, patterns, and tendencies. Are you feeling stressed all the time? Are you taking care of yourself physically? What areas of life need attention?
- Similar to the previous point, check in with a friend, colleague, or counselor who knows you well and cares about your wellbeing. Ask them to help you notice any changes in how you’re acting that could be signs of burnout—like being irritable all the time, isolating yourself from others, or withdrawing from work responsibilities—and talk through what might be going on in terms of self-care and boundaries in ministry and work.
- If possible, consider seeking professional help if burnout is severe enough that it’s affecting your day-to-day functioning. Therapy can help people learn skills for self-care without relying solely on others around them (which is often not possible when working in full-time ministry). It can also provide tools for navigating situations like those above.
Write down what you are doing
One of the most important things you can do to prevent ministry burnout is to write down what you are doing every day. This will help your brain organize, remember, and reflect on all that has happened in the last 24 hours and keep track of how much time is being spent on each task. It can also be a good idea to write down how you feel about what you did so that over time, you understand the patterns that emerge which may indicate burnout. This will allow for a more honest assessment of where your energy level is at any given point in time.
After examining your list after a period of several weeks, you can ask yourself questions to see what is working and what is not. Then you can make adjustments before burnout happens. Some examples of reflective questions could include:
- What needs changing?
- What worked well?
- What drained my energy?
- What made me feel stressed or overwhelmed?
Make decisions about how much you will take on
One step in preventing burnout is to make sure that you’re only taking on what you can handle.
This means making a decision about how much of your time and energy you’ll devote to each area of ministry work. After all, there’s no sense in trying to do everything at once. That’s a recipe for disaster!
To help get this part right, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is God calling me to do?
- What do I have time for?
- What am I good at?
- What matters most to me?
Take a break
You’re not alone if you’re feeling burned out. In fact, ministry burnout is a very real thing, and it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how long or short your commitment to ministry has been, there will come a time when you need to take a break from the day-to-day responsibilities of your position.
Set aside time to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually before it happens. Taking time off will help recharge your batteries. Whether you go on a 30-minute walk or take a week-long vacation, taking a break can make a difference. Disconnect from the overwhelm. Breathe deep. And refocus.
Find hobbies or pastimes that help you recharge
In order to prevent ministry burnout, it’s important to find things outside of the church that help you recharge. This could be a hobby or pastime that you enjoy, or something completely unrelated to church (but still relaxing).
To determine what would work best for your needs, think about what gets you excited. What are you passionate about? Is there a sport that makes you feel like a kid again? Do certain music genres get your blood pumping? Perhaps it’s an activity such as painting or woodworking. Or maybe there is something more personal, like taking time alone with God each day and reading His Word. Whatever brings life and joy into your heart will probably be beneficial for preventing ministry burnout!
Delegating tasks is a great way to reduce your workload and prevent ministry burnout. However, delegation is only effective if you choose the right people and give them the right tasks.
- Make sure you are delegating to the right person: Not every member of your team can be responsible for every task in the church. For example, if you have a junior high youth leader who has never led worship before, it would not make sense to assign him or her this responsibility in addition to all of their other duties. Instead, delegate those responsibilities where they will be most beneficial.
- Make sure the task needs to be done: Sometimes we assume that everyone wants more responsibilities just because we think they should want them or because we need help. Before assigning anyone more work than they can handle effectively, consider whether it actually needs doing at all—or if there’s another way around it so that no one gets overwhelmed by extra work. You don’t want to create ministry burnout for other people.
- Make sure they have necessary skills: Ensure each person has adequate training and experience using whatever tools are necessary. Delegating tasks to an unqualified person might create more work for you and for that person. The point of delegating tasks is to empower others to use their gifts and skills for the work of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Each should do their part.
Know when to say no
The best way to prevent burnout is by learning when it’s okay for you to say no.
When my husband first started in full-time ministry, one of the first things his pastor told him was that “no is a complete sentence.” Though it may be helpful and respectful to share your reasoning behind saying no, you don’t have to. If it is too much, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually, learn how to respectfully decline.
Maybe your limits are different from mine. I know some people who can handle multiple projects at once, while others struggle even with one. Whatever your limitations may be (or how many things you’re willing to take on), they should be respected by those around you. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries—whether they’re coworkers or friends—it might be time for a frank conversation about what the right amount of work looks like.
Software designed for the church
It’s important to remember that burnout is a normal and common experience for many people working in ministry. The key is to recognize the signs of burnout and take action before they become serious problems. The more proactive you are about preventing burnout and taking care of yourself, the less likely you will be overwhelmed by these feelings in the future.
Do you have the tools you need to round out your ministry and help you do the work? ShareFaith provides churches with the technology they need to save time, reduce exhaustive efforts, and make a difference in ministry. If you want to streamline your processes to lighten the burden, Start a free trial today! Our team at ShareFaith is in your corner to reduce ministry burnout and help you thrive in your calling.