Have you ever felt burned out doing ministry?
I’m a Pastor’s kid. Being involved in ministry from a young age through teen years and into my adult years, I feel like I’ve seen so much, both good and bad. I’m not a seasoned veteran, yet, I still feel like I can offer some words on this subject. My goal here is to encourage anyone who feels like they are burned out and want to quit. Why? Because I’ve been there myself! There are times I’ve wanted to run to the other end of the earth and just live under a rock for awhile avoiding people, ministry, and the responsibilities that come with leading.
I have watched families in ministry bloom and blossom. I have watched and experienced the toll that ministry can also take on a family if there are no boundaries in place. If you don’t stay close to God’s heart and cling to HIM, it can chew you up and spit you out. It can leave you broken and your family broken. I believe that there are practical things that you can do to protect yourself from ministry burnout and I’m going to share a few things I think work. These are things I’ve learned and have also OBSERVED from people I truly respect and admire!
how to avoid ministry burnout:
Remember the why.
Remember why you are in ministry in the first place. I hope that if you’re in ministry it’s because you feel like God has called you to do it. Whether that’s lead worship, lead children in children’s ministry, work on the logistical aspects of the church- go back to your why. WHY are you here? How did you end up here?
‘But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.’ 1 Peter 2:9
For me, I know that God has called me to lead. Whether that’s through worship or leading people, I know in the bottom of my soul, that I’ve been called to do that and it’s what God wants me to do. How do I know that? It’s what I’m passionate about. When I feel like running away, I remember the why. God’s called me to do it.
Remember the who.
This is the most important! Ministry for the sake of ministry is utterly POINTLESS! I am involved in ministry because I love Jesus. Because I love Jesus, I love people. Because I love people, I want to see people thrive in their relationships with Him. As a result, I can always go back to the fact that everything and anything I do is for the glory of God. Not man and not for myself. I’m not interested in building the name of Natalie.
‘So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ‘ 1 Corinthians 10:31
And another favorite:’
But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.’ Acts of the Apostles 20:24
Ministry is about Jesus. If ever you get to a point where it’s not about Jesus, I daresay run.
Create healthy boundaries.
This actually ties into a topic of rest. What I mean by this is create a perimeter around yourself. Don’t allow people access to you at every moment of the day. I don’t mean ignore an emergency, a death in the family, a serious issue: what I do mean is if it can wait then let it wait. An article I read here explains it even better than I can.
Prioritize your family.
This is where so many people and families get it so horribly wrong. They prioritize ministry FIRST over their family and over everything. If you can’t do ministry with your family, don’t sacrifice your family trying to minister to the world while they’re dying. My greatest regret would be that I poured my entire life out for others but neglected those closest to me (Jose, Micah, Josiah) and I’m determined not to live like that. I’ve experienced the effects of this and it’s not worth the amount of devastation that it leaves behind. Trust me!
But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers. – 1 Timothy 5:8
Prioritizing your family means that you show your family that they are important and valued. Time with them is important. Set aside a specific day of the week that’s considered “sacred” family time. This means that nothing and no one interrupts it.
Prioritize times of rest.
This one is essential. Yet this is one of the top things that are neglected. Without rest, you will burn out quickly. The Bible often talks about the Sabbath, a day where people would take out time for rest and reverence to the Lord. I think it’s important that as people involved in ministry, you prioritize periods of rest so that you DO have something to offer the world. It’s important to know that people will take all that you are willing to give them until you are dry. It’s not their intention but it’s part of human nature. Unless you make rest a time of importance and schedule it into your busy schedule, you will feel dry, empty, and flat out TIRED.
Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
I am a big fan of getaways, small or big. If I have a break as a teacher and finances allow it, I always try to plan a 2-3 getaway where we can actually remove ourselves from our surroundings and take time together as a family. Times of rest don’t have to be dramatic and should be regular. Carve it into your day, week, or month. Find a way to include it in there.
Surround yourself with the right people.
YOU ARE WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. Show me a man’s friend’s and I’ll show you who he is. These are sayings and cliches that you’ve heard before. The Bible puts it this way:
‘Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” ‘ 1 Corinthians 15:33
When you are involved in ministry, people are watching you. There are many who are watching to see if or when you will mess up. Not everyone is cheering you on. It’s so important to make sure that you spend time with the right people. People who are toxic or are not a good friend will drain more life away from you. They will leave you burned out with nothing left to give. Protect yourself from that. Find people who will speak life when you feel like death. People who will bring out the gold you have within you.
If you can connect with someone who has done ministry well, connect with them and learn from them. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? Listen to their stories and examples of success, failure, and how to do better. I personally love to talk to people who I admire who have a family they love, have a great marriage, and have a ministry that’s thriving and have LONGEVITY. Time is a great teacher. Learn from the mistakes of others and the victories and use it to help veer you on the right path.
Most importantly, Prioritize your time with God. doing ministry does not equal spending time with God.
I think sometimes we equate being busy for God as an equivalent to actually spending time with God. THIS DOESN’T SUBSTITUTE YOUR ACTUAL TIME WITH THE LORD. You will quickly burn out if you are not connected to The Father.
‘But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. And they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.’ Isaiah 40:28-31
Those that trust in God find NEW STRENGTH. They run and don’t get tired! If you get anything from this post, this is the most important thing. Trust in the Lord, rest in Him, and He will strengthen you so that you can keep running the race with joy.
Thanks for reading along! Do you feel like you’re burned out and ready to throw in the towel? Find rest, take time to seek and pray, and continue to fight the good fight of faith.