Ministry burnout is more than just ending a career in the ministry. Burnout can damage churches, families, and yourself. Here are some warning signs and some tips for saving yourself from ministry burnout
1. I do not have time for important things!
Many ministry leaders will say that their marriages and their families are most important to them, but the demands of the church make those things take a back seat from time to time.
When you have a moment to think clearly, make a list of the things that are most important to you. If you find that you do not have time for those things, you are in danger of burn out.
2. These people are awful!
Does it feel like life would be so much better if your church was different? Are the individual idiosyncrasies of your lay leaders occupying more and more of your conversations and your thoughts?
Every church has its problems. However, ministry ought to bring more joy than pain. If you find yourself thinking and talking more about the problems of your church, you are probably beginning to burn out.
3. I cannot talk to anyone!
Ministry is a unique situation, but not so unique that no one can possibly understand it. If you find yourself thinking that you cannot talk to anyone about your struggles then you are not only on the path to burnout, but you are on some shaky personal ground as well.
4. I want out!
Escape fantasies may range from longing for a different church, to longing for a different job, to even wanting a completely different life! It is common to think that the grass is greener on the other side from time to time, but when escape fantasies become more common and more grandiose, burnout is taking place.
Steps to take to prevent burnout
1. Evaluate your health
Are you exercising? Are you eating right? Are you following your doctor’s orders? There are 4 aspects to being healthy. Read more about them here.
2. Evaluate your time
Remember that list of things that are most important? When you schedule your week and your day, do those things get a place on the calendar? If you cannot find room to spare, consider ending a few projects or delegating some responsibility in order to make room.
3. Evaluate your calling
Spend time with a coach or mentor and get to the center of your calling and vision. Sometimes the day to day work of the church gets further and further away from this. Make a plan to get things back on track.
4. Consider taking a sabbatical.
Not every pastor is in a position to take a year off to study. However, it may be possible to take a week or two off from preaching in order to get refreshed and reorganized.
When to take emergency action:
If escape fantasies involve the end of your marriage or your life, or your family is experiencing major stress at the expense of the church, you need to take emergency action. You need to speak to someone and make a plan immediately!
Aaron Davis is the author of the novel Street Preacher and is currently working on a memoir, Baggage Claim. He is developing a speaking and coaching ministry to address mental health in the church and ministry. If you are interested in having him speak to your church or organization, click here for more information.
I'll be speaking in Willow Springs on November 13. This will be the first time since I announced the Baggage Claim Project that I've been invited to speak. It will be a different sort of sermon for me.
Usually, as guest preacher (and especially in my experience as a church planter), I would try to emphasize the best things that are happening. This time, I will be talking about my hospital stay, my time in ministry with untreated Major Depressive Disorder, and the scripture that I have been clinging to lately.
If you are in the area, please come! I'll have copies of Street Preacher available for sale and for signing!
I'm speaking in the evening service, a joint service between First Baptist Church of Willow Springs and Trinity Baptist Church. The service is at 6:30pm at Trinity Baptist Church.
Author, Parent, Husband, Christ-follower