One of the most defining moments in my life happened several years ago, as a full-time music and media coordinator for a vibrant and growing church plant, when I suddenly realized that I was actually ok if I never designed another sermon series graphic or put together another Sunday Setlist for worship services..
I had hit that “staff ministry wall” – a really potentially frustrating and bitterness producing place in which I never thought in a million years I’d find myself. It’s a really complex situation, but the result was I was toast. I was burned out.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually loved the actual expressions of worship and found great joy in serving our congregation through music and media during our gatherings, but because I hadn’t taken great care to guard my heart against burnout…I found myself burned out, jaded, and headed toward an unnecessary bitterness in and towards my situation. It had become much like any other job that one begins to despise and feels trapped in.
Over a period of time, I intentionally implemented several remedies and now find myself in one of the healthiest, vibrant times of my life
Here are several tips that might be applicable if you find yourself in a burned out state:
1) Change of scenery.
- This could be rearranging your office or workspace (or even just cleaning your office up and removing clutter).
- This could also mean taking a few days off for a time of recharge. Go camping. Visit friends out of state. Go to the mountains. Go to the beach.
- This could also mean taking your lunch break outside in the sun. If your job requires you to spend all day inside mostly in front of a computer screen, you really should build 1-2 brief breaks in that time period so that you can just get up and stretch your legs and get a little fresh air and sunlight. It’s good for you.
- Change jobs. This is probably an extreme move, but it might be just what you need.
2) Scale back.
- Revisit and redefine your job responsibilities. Seriously review them with those you love and trust (including those you report to) and make sure that you are not running yourself ragged. Be honest with yourself and with those you work with and for.
- Delegate. Be proactive about finding volunteers. Recruit, recruit, recruit.
- Just because it’s on your list of responsibilities doesn’t mean you literally have to do it. Make sure things get done, but use any and every mean besides running yourself ragged to get it done.
- This one should go without saying, but one of the biggest burnout remedies is prayer. Continuously connect to the Source of inspiration, energy, and motivation. Share your victories and frustrations with the Lord.
- Pray with others. Have others pray with and over you.
- If you don’t have at least one hobby or activity that you can engage in that totally takes you away from your busy situation, you’re asking for burnout.
- Take up a sport. I personally love to play Ultimate Frisbee and do so every Sunday at 2 pm with a great group of friends.
- Find an activity that helps you stay active that you love to do. For some it’s running, for some it’s golf. For others it’s fishing. Find something you enjoy to do and be consistent at “allowing” yourself the freedom to have fun with it.
5) Take care of your body.
- See above.
- Sleep well.
- Eat well.
6) Spend quality time with your family and friends.
- Seriously. No man is an island. We all need relationships. We need family and friends in our lives. Don’t let yourself not hang out with family and friends because you’re so busy with your “ministry” job.
- Prioritize relationship time.
- Have a weekly date night with your spouse (budget in a sitter if you have kids).
- Set aside a family night.
- Say NO to any job that requires you to spend so much time doing “work” on week nights (such as services, rehearsals, etc.) that cause you to not have any family time.
- Family time does not equal sitting in front of a television screen for 4 hours. Be present. Be engaged.
7) Love your job.
- If you don’t love your job, why do it?
- Find out what it is that makes you frustrated with your work and do what you can to eliminate and minimize those things.
- Realistically if there are people involved in any situation (including us) it will be imperfect and there are bound to be frustrations. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t work through them and love your job.
8) Volunteer in another capacity.
- A lot of times we can get so wrapped up in the routine of our “ministry” jobs that we can take for granted that sense of usefulness in the Kingdom and it becomes more about doing what it takes to being home a paycheck. Just another job. Find ways to give your time and resources outside of your job that allow you the freedom to go “above and beyond” your “job.”
- Seasonal giving and volunteering is an option.
- Mentoring and coaching through community activities.
- Study Scripture diligently.
- Worship OUTSIDE of your “required” times of leading worship. Many times we get so used to our routines that we neglect to plug in to the Source in our own individual disciplines of prayer, study, and worship. Getting in front of others 1-2 times a week is not a lifestyle of worship.
10) Quit your “ministry” job and enter the “ministry.”
- This is an extreme move, but one that can be very effective. Some people who burn out in ministry need to be OUT of “ministry” and do something else. Of course we all know that ministry is not limited to those who are on staff at a church, so ultimately we’re ALL in ministry.
- Are you skilled at something else that allows you to find another job that you love? Don’t be afraid to explore opportunities.
All of these are just suggestions and are in no way meant as the ultimate fix for a burned out heart (which is God’s healing touch and a letting go of offense on our parts).
Have you ever experienced burn out? How did you move forward? Please share your insight, experiences, and tips in the comment section below.