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How to Avoid Burnout as a Church Volunteer

  • Misty Honnold Contributing Writer
  • 2016 13 Jul
How to Avoid Burnout as a Church Volunteer

As a leader, I have experienced the reality of burnout and I have seen it in others. My goal is the help protect others from going through the motions of burnout which can often lead to offense with the church and leadership. Unfortunately the statistic is true: 20 percent of the people are doing 80 percent of the work. So how do we protect ourselves if we are that 20 percent? 

Discover Your Passion

“My mother’s sons were angry with me so they made me caretaker in their vineyard, my own vineyard I have not kept.” (Song of Solomon 1:6b)

You might be asking, “What in the world does this passage have to do with burnout?” EVERYTHING. These verses convey what all too often happens to zealous people in the body of Christ. In an effort to serve where we are assigned, our hearts often become dull and lifeless. We don’t “care for our own vineyard” because we are so busy caring for the needs of others. 

Our goal should be to discover what makes our hearts alive. We need to ask questions such as:

SEE ALSO: 6 Ways to Avoid Church Burnout

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What do I enjoy?
  • What could I do for hours on end?
  • What are my natural gifts?
  • What are my spiritual gifts? 

Asking and learning the answers to these questions will help us determine what kind of roles we are suited for. We get to discover how we are wired and what makes our heart alive. There are some great assessment tools for these questions. Personality tests such as Myers-Briggs, DISC and Strengthsfinder are great for anyone to take. There are also spiritual gifts tests online that one can take to help them discover their natural abilities.  

Become a Lover of God

“Before I was aware, my heart was set like a chariot over my noble people” (Song of Solomon 6:12)

God has a plan for us. He wants to use US, His body, to reveal His love to a broken and hurting world.  This particular verse takes place towards the end of Song of Solomon; love has been awakened in the heart of the Schulamite (who represents the Bride of Christ) and eventually, before she knows it, her heart is set aflame with passion for the purposes and people of God. 

SEE ALSO: Ten Steps to Prevent Ministry Burnout

We often are trying to figure out where we fit, and what our calling is. However, as we put first things first, as we “Seek Him” first, He sets us in the place we are created to lovingly serve. 

Far too often and for far too long, the church has been made up of workers who fight to love. Our paradigm is wrong. As we fall more in love with God, working for the Kingdom of God becomes natural expression of that love. Our work simply becomes an overflow of love. It is much easier to overflow than to labor (and more FUN).

Discover Your Why

“I see what you’ve done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can’t stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out.” (Revelation 2:2-3 Msg)

SEE ALSO: Protecting Pastors from Burnout

Jesus places a HIGH priority on the REASON we offer service to Him. In Revelation 2, He applauds the church of Ephesus for their deeds, BUT He had this against them:  

"But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first." (Revelation 2:4-5a)

They had left their first love.  This was a great tragedy to King Jesus, so much that He said if they did not return to their first love, He would remove their lampstand. Jesus is serious about His church serving from a heart of love. We must continually allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts. It would benefit us to join with King David’s prayer:

"Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life." (Psalm 139:23-24 Msg

Some other key elements to avoid burnout involve:

  • Staying connected - Oftentimes volunteers become so absorbed with DOING that they become disconnected with the body. Examine your spiritual outlets, are you involved in a small group, bible study, or other opportunity to go deep with the Lord in the context of relationship? 
  • Forgiveness - In the process of allowing the eye of the Lord to search your heart, you might find there are places where you have been offended as a volunteer. If God illuminates these times in your mind repent and turn back to His loving kindness. Allow the Father to speak to you about how HE feels about your service. 
  • Practicing Your No - Sometimes we say “Yes” when we should be saying “No.” “But if I don’t do it, who will?” Well, if the Lord wants it done, He will raise up the people to accomplish the task.

Unfortunately, we are often too busy to notice signs of burnout until it happens. However, these are just a few ways to explore your own heart to see if you are stepping on the edge of burnout. As believers, we are to do good works, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless/poor. But we have to be attuned to the leadership of Jesus to discover what our role is in the advancement of the Kingdom. 

The simple answer to a complex problem is: Develop Intimacy With Christ… Let HIM Lead You. 


Misty Honnold is the Founder and Director of the non-profit organization The Single MOM KC.  Misty equips, trains and empowers women to discover the source of their strength in Christ. She publishes a weekly blog on the website The Single MOM KC as well as freelances for other publications. She is working on her first book to be published in 2016; an autobiographical teaching of the Song of Solomon.

Publication date: July 13, 2016