Burn Out Burnout: An Open Letter to Leaders

The following letter is written from a church volunteer who asked to remain nameless.

By telling his own story, I pray it impacts the way we lead and the way we love:

I’d been serving in church for most of my adult life: worship ministry, teaching, children’s, youth. I’ve served on platforms and behind-the-scenes. I’ve sacrificed my weekends and evenings. I’ve served as an elder, and I’ve grilled hot dogs at the youth fundraiser.

But I woke up one morning, and realized a lingering resentment toward the church was beginning to grow into full-scale anger. When I began sharing these feelings with a close friend, my friend suggested I might be burned out.

He was right.

Over the next year, I backed out of every commitment at my church. I ended up leaving my church.

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Why I Burned Out

Most leaders seem to believe burnout is nothing more than being tired and needing to be replaced.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In my situation, burnout wasn’t about being tired but about being recruited into ministry positions for which I was not well-suited.

Burnout was the worst experience of my life—more difficult than marriage or child-raising; even more difficult than the death of dearly loved family members. I don’t have any answers for pastors. I only know it took me five years to begin to actively re-engage in communal church life.

What Burnout Did to Me

Below, I’ve listed what burnout caused me to do, to think and to believe. It’s not pretty, but it’s real. I’m not blaming anyone or anything—I’m only reading my journal to you.

Burnout caused me to question everything—God, Jesus, the Bible, the cross, the resurrection. Everything.

Burnout caused me to question myself. During that five-year period, I’ve never felt like less of a child, like less of a beloved son. During that time, I identified myself as a failure more than any other identity.

Burnout caused me to seek and engage a Christian counselor.

Burnout caused me to become cynical of church leaders.

Burnout developed a hardening of my heart, even toward the people who are near to the heart of God—the poor, the downcast, the voiceless.

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Gary Molander
Gary has been married to Angela for 22 years, and is the father of three daughters. He served as a pastor for seventeen years, and has a Masters Degree in Creative Arts. He is the author of "Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.", and is the co-owner of Floodgate Productions, and the Founder and President of the Floodgate Foundation.