The first step in growing your church while preventing burnout is conducting a heart check. Not your physical heart, although if you’re really burned out that may not be a bad idea. I’m talking about your emotional, spiritual heart.
What’s motivating you?
What’s motivating within the context of church can get complicated.
We’re working to serve God and people.
You’re preparing a sermon, leading a small group, running the lights and sound, or other tasks that contribute to telling people about Christ. Sometimes we can get so blinded by doing work for God that we neglect our relationship with God. That’s dangerous and can lead to the moral failures we’ve seen in the church lately or pastors/church staff burning out and leaving.
How do you conduct a heart check? Here are several areas to consider:
#1 – When did you last spend time in prayer and reading the Word that wasn’t for preparation of a sermon or other work-related activity?
We all need time with God that’s simply for the purpose of listening, learning, and enjoying his presence. It’s easy to try and justify not having personal time with God if you’ve already spent several hours preparing for a message. While I’m sure you benefited personally from that time, it can’t fully replace time invested in focusing on your relationship with God.
#2 – Review your calendar for the last few weeks.
What does that tell you about what’s most important? After all, what we schedule tends to be what gets done and therefore shows what’s most important to us. Does your calendar align with what you say is most important to you?
#3 – How many evenings are you working late each week?
Your relationship with your family plus your physical health will take a hit if you’re working late too often. There will be busy seasons, but those should be seasons, not every day. This is much easier to say than do, but it’s important to say “no” to work (even church work) so you can say “yes” to your family.
I like how Eric Geiger puts it in his post, Four Reasons Burnout Is More Prevalent in Ministry Leadership:
“In most roles, overwork feels sinful and neglectful. In ministry, overwork can wrongly feel holy. After all, you are “doing all these things for the Lord and for people.” Some leaders struggle to say no because doing so would feel like denying ministry to people. Leaders can justify all the hours in their minds, the neglect of their own souls, and the neglect of their families. Ministry can attract workaholics and give them a reason to justify their addiction.”
#4 – Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Well, if I don’t get this done it won’t be done right”?
If so, that could indicate you’re not delegating well or you’re insistent a task be done exactly “your way.”