Have you ever experienced burnout?
Have you ever felt close to being burnt out?
For people involved in ministry (volunteer or otherwise), burnout is a real possibility. Most of us are actively involved in multiple ministries in our churches, on top of working or going to school, having families, and so much more.
We live in a fast-paced society that promotes a hustle mentality, and it’s simply not sustainable. We can even mistakenly believe that if we’re not burning the candle at both ends, then we’re not doing enough.
When we attempt to do too much for too long, we eventually reach the end of our physical, emotional, and even spiritual capacity.
Typically, we label a lack of motivation as burnout. We can also describe burnout as emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. Some people find themselves feeling helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful.
All of this is usually a response to extended seasons of being under pressure and stress. It can look and feel different for each person, but eventually you just have nothing left to give.
From lack of motivation, to major health complications, if we aren’t intentional about the choices we make, burnout can become a real problem. And for those of us that can’t simply walk away from ministry for a time, we can easily come to a breaking point that has a negative impact on what God has called us to do.
Romans 12:1 tells us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Working in the Kingdom of God, we understand sacrifice. We give our energy, our time, our talents, our finances, and (hopefully) do so gladly, as we understand that it’s our reasonable service.
But it’s important to note that we are to be living sacrifices. A living sacrifice is one that is continually offered, which means we must have something to continue offering.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost and that we are to glorify God in our bodies, which belong to God.
We do not glorify God by pushing ourselves to the point that we are unable to offer our best, or anything at all.
Now I do want to note that I am not promoting the self-love/self-care message of this world that seeks to put the self first above all else. The Bible is clear that we are to live selflessly and put others first. However, we should also use wisdom and understand that God made these human bodies with limitations and He expects us to care for the temple He dwells in.
With that in mind, here are a few practical ways to avoid burnout.
3 Ways to Avoid Burnout
1. Get Some Sleep
Did you know that the Bible says God gives sleep to those He loves? It does!
Psalm 127:1-2 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
God created our bodies to need sleep. Who are we to tell God that He made a mistake?
It’s important for us to rest, and to get the sleep our bodies need to function properly. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you need to reevaluate your schedule and start saying no to some things.
You might even need to lay some worries at the feet of Jesus. We don’t want to find ourselves rising early, staying up late, and toiling in vain, thinking if we don’t do it, things will surely fall apart. We show God that we trust Him when we can sleep, no matter what’s happening in our lives.
If Jesus can sleep in the middle of a storm (Mark 4), then I think we should follow His example and make sure we don’t neglect our own sleep.
When my husband and I came to Seattle to start a church, another church planter gave us permission to simplify. We didn’t come with a team and unlimited resources, so we could not do it all.
10 years in, and we still can’t! And neither can you.
As much as we would love to have a million programs and do all the things, we don’t have the time or physical capacity to make that happen and do it all with excellence.
And thankfully, God doesn’t need all of “the things” to build a church. He added 3,000 to the church on the Day of Pentecost with no programs at all! Just an outpouring of the Holy Ghost that was noised abroad. He gathered crowds because of His teaching and miraculous demonstrations. There was no Sunday School program, no ladies' tea, not even a first impressions team.
We made the choice to be intentional about what we invested our time in, and we did those things to the best of our ability and prayed that God would send us others who could launch other ministries when the time was right. It took us 8 years to start a kids' ministry at our church, and we started it because God sent us a couple who were passionate about Sunday School.
You have permission to simplify!
3. Maintain Healthy Habits (Spiritual & Physical)
Healthy spiritual and physical habits are a necessity!
Physically, we can’t be inactive, make bad choices at meal times, neglect the needs of our bodies, and then expect to feel great.
Our physical health is going to impact us mentally and emotionally. It will begin to dictate what we can and can’t do. If we make healthy choices when it comes to our bodies, like eating well, being active, getting outside, we will also be in a much better place mentally.
And spiritually, we can’t get so caught up in the work of the Kingdom, that we forget to take time for what matters most - our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Our strength and motivation flow out of time spent with Him. Make sure you don’t neglect daily prayer and Bible reading, fasting, and regular gathering with other believers for worship and to receive the preached Word that saves those that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).
If we’re intentional about the way we live our lives, we can avoid burnout. Let’s get some sleep, simplify, and maintain those spiritual and physical healthy habits so we can glorify God in everything that we do.