Most of us want to be successful at our jobs, whether we’re stay-at-home moms or high-paid executives. And regardless of how you define “success”, if you’re looking for it, you’re usually willing to sacrifice for it.
Yet, true success eludes most of us, because we always have the sense that we could do more or be more or give more. The satisfaction we anticipated feeling once we reached the pinnacle of our career simply never came (or faded quickly). This leads to feelings of guilt or inadequacy, which pushes us to try harder and sacrifice more to “get there.”
Sadly, this is often most true in the church, where, instead of experiencing freedom from the burden to “perform well”, ministry leaders (and, as a result, church members) immerse themselves in church commitments and serve until they burnout. The subsequent aftermath of this overworked, under-appreciated service too often leads to affairs, bitterness, and a complete break from the church. If the Christian has not also lost her faith, she will spend a significant portion of time (perhaps years) healing from the weight that she had carried and holding back from her next community of believers.
I consider myself having been in ministry since the day I gave my life to Jesus, almost 14 years ago. In our 12.5 years of marriage, my husband and I have served in nearly every church program possible, taught classes and led small groups, been on staff at a church, have started a church, and are about to start another church. Outside of going on vacations 1-3 times a year, we have never had a Sunday “off”, and have regularly spent up to 7 hours in a church building on many a Sunday. In many of those years, this was in addition to non-ministry jobs and commitments.
I admit that, in the span of a life, this is really no time at all. Yet, I still think it worthy to note that we have never once felt even close to burnout.
I praise God for this! And I reflect on why this is our situation, so that we can prevent burnout from ever entering our ministry. I also want to encourage those of you who are leading or participating in the work of the church to invite the Holy Spirit to reveal if you are headed towards burnout.
Later this week will begin a 4-part series on the matter of ministry burnout, including thoughts from a great mentor and longtime pastor/leader. My prayer is that we reflect on our work in the church and trust Jesus all the more to sustain us in it.
What questions do you have as you think about guarding yourself from burnout?
What experiences have you had feeling stretched too far in ministry? What advice can you give others?