There’s a phenomenon that every single minister and ministry volunteer knows all too well:
You've read every book and article, listened to every podcast, attended every conference workshop on it. I have, too. And despite all those great resources, you've still felt the suffocating impact of ministry burnout. So have I. Why is that?
I don’t have all the answers to address this issue. But I have asked a few leaders wiser than myself for advice. The healthiest ministers have a perspective that none of those books or podcasts have.
After following their wisdom, I’ve seen a BIG difference in my life. Below is a summary of what has helped me avoid ministry burnout.
We’ve all felt over-extended, exhausted, dejected, maybe even taken advantage of and unappreciated. This is true of anyone serving in ministry. It’s especially true for every pastor I’ve ever known.
My friend, I know there is work to do and few to do it. But you cannot run on an empty tank of gas. You have to fill your spirit with what gives you life and energy.
For me, there are a few things that never fail to lift me right out of anxiety and stress:
- Quality time with my wife and kids
- Extended periods of time outdoors
- Reading a book
- Carpentry and woodworking
I make sure to spend time with my family every single day. Doing this has a remarkably stabilizing effect on my mental, emotional and spiritual health. I may not do the other things on the above list every day, but I do them weekly or as often as I can.
There are two dynamics at play in my list above. First, these things sustain me and give me the energy to keep doing what I’m doing.
Secondly, prioritizing these things helps me set healthy boundaries. I’m drawing a line in the sand to limit how much of my time and energy is consumed by the work of ministry. Limits act like guardrails at the edge of a cliff, keeping me from falling.
Being in ministry puts you right in the middle of a tug-o’-war. This is compounded when you’re a pastor, because not only do you place expectations on yourself, but others often make demands and expectations of your time as well. We mere mortals have to recognize our limitations. We can’t do everything.
Intentionally limiting how much time I spend on something helps me maintain a sustainable balance between pouring myself out and being poured into. Without this balance, it’s only a matter of time before I crash and burn.
There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Sleeping 7 hours takes 420 of those minutes, leaving us with only about 1000 waking minutes a day.
It’s easy to slip into a scarcity mindset regarding time, but that only leads us to further stress over our obligations. Instead, the scarcity of time makes what we choose to use our time for more precious.
It can be difficult to choose between spending time serving others and time alone or with family. But these two things aren’t competing demands. They’re both a part of the same mission, which is to follow Christ.
Time is a gift from God. The goal is always to spend time doing what God would have us do. That includes serving others, quality time with family, and time alone with God.
The best reminder I’ve been given is that we are entirely dependent on God to sustain us and our work.
I don't know about you, but I need that reminder often.
Time with God is where all work begins and ends. We cannot sustain our efforts long-term without ourselves being sustained directly by our Creator.