6 Ways to Avoid Church Burnout
- Cortni Marrazzo Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Updated Oct 29, 2015
Serving in my local church is a passion of mine. When I first committed my life to God, I immediately started serving in my church and discovered the amazing benefits and blessings of doing so, both for me and the people I served, and I’ve continued to do so to this day. I’ve been involved in ministry in a variety of different roles for a number of years now and I have watched others (and myself on occasion) experience church burnout after too much serving. Since I am so passionate about people serving and leading in their local church, I find it so sad to watch people who were once so excited to serve, get overwhelmed, burned out and leave the church altogether. The enemy loves it when influential and passionate churchgoers stop serving and stop influencing others for the kingdom because he knows this is how the church grows and it is how people are discipled.
Let me preface by pointing out that I am not saying that you have to serve in church to go to heaven or to have a relationship with God, rather serving in church offers so many benefits and opportunities to grow, both for you and for the people God wants to work in through you. For me, serving in church has enhanced my relationship with God, my leadership, my relationships, my growth as a person, and my influence with others who are growing in their relationships with God. The enemy has tried to stop this multiple times over the years with his tactic of burnout, but thanks to wonderful mentors and leaders that have poured into me over the years and my commitment to hearing God’s voice in my life, I’ve learned a few ways to help avoid or correct this. Whether you are a volunteer, a church leader, a staff member, or even a pastor, I hope some of these can help you if you are facing burnout in your life right now..
Stay Spiritually Strong
The quickest way to burnout is focusing on serving God and your church at the expense of spending time with Him and engaging in your relationship with Him. If you don’t take the time to cultivate your personal relationship with God on a regular basis, you won’t have the strength, energy or motivation to continue serving with a good attitude. We are to serve as an extension of our relationship with God, not as a replacement for it, but sadly this often gets flipped.
Focus on Your Passion
It is very important to be focused on what you are passionate about when it comes to your serving. If you aren't doing what you are really passionate about, your enthusiasm for serving will fade fast. God gives each individual certain passions that are to be the fuel to keep us going when things get tough. If you are serving in a capacity that is outside of that passion, when the tough times hit, you won’t have the fuel to keep going.
Learn to Say No
This goes hand in hand with focusing on your passion. Churches need great volunteers and leaders to reach people and get things done. Typically a church staff is unable to handle all the demands themselves, which is really the way God designed it because a church runs as a body of people doing the work of the ministry. If you are responsible and productive, chances are that you will be pulled by many different departments. Learn to focus on one or two areas of service and do those well instead of doing many different things halfway. Then be okay with saying no to other things.
This is hard one if you tend to be a people pleaser like I am. It is easy to see any opportunity to serve at your church as noble cause and good, but sometimes good things can keep you from the best things. Just because it’s good, doesn’t mean it’s what God wants you to do at that time. My husband and I were very involved in our worship team while also serving as small group coaches and our pastor told us that we were going to have to choose between the two eventually in order to fully focus on one. Within a few months after talking and praying about it, we decided to step down from the worship team and focus on our role in the small group ministry. A year and a half later we were promoted to small group directors. If we hadn’t stepped down from the worship department, then we wouldn’t have had the mental capacity to focus on small groups and therefore wouldn’t be in the position we are currently in. Saying no can be tough, but it is an act of maturity that will help ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed with too many fires burning in your life at once.
Recognize Your Season
Our lives go through different seasons with different needs at each season. When my husband and I were first married before we had any kids, we were involved in youth ministry, were on the worship team, we served as pre-marital mentors and small group leaders, and generally helped wherever we could. We had ample time and energy to do all of that because we were young and didn’t have any kids. As we stepped into the journey of parenthood and are now in the season of having young kids at home, we have had to limit what we are involved in because our kids need a lot of our attention. There are other varying seasons in life that will affect how much you can serve and what you can do so it’s important to recognize what season you are in and what you are able to do at that time without comparing yourself to others, or even to yourself at a previous season.
Take a Break if Needed
Last year I had my second baby in the fall, which is our super busy season for small group ministry because it is when we have back-to-back events and our groups are starting back up from the summer break. After I had my baby I was back to working part time from home less than 2 weeks later. I powered through and helped put on our annual connection event, but a few weeks later I felt myself getting very overwhelmed. I then realized that I jumped back into work too quickly and that I needed to take a step back to spend more time with my new baby. I brought it up to my pastor and let her know how I was feeling and she encouraged me to take a 2 month break from work all together, which I did. This helped my mental state and after the 2 months, I was so excited to come back and get back to work because I was refreshed from taking time off. The key was being able to articulate and be honest with my leader about needing that time because if I wasn’t and I kept working, I would have been burnt out and would have started resenting the work I was doing, instead of being excited and refreshed to come back like I was. If you need to take a break for a short season, talk to your leader about it. They should care about you as a person enough to want you to be at your best and to take care of yourself. If they don’t, then that may not be someone you want to serve under anyway.
Take a Sabbath
Be sure to take a day off from serving/working at least once a week. I work from home a lot so it’s easy for me to be working on ministry things every day, but recently my husband and I have been very diligent to take a least one day a week where we take a break from ministry duties. We focus on our family and on each other this day and just generally take it easy. This is hard to do for a type A driven personality like myself, but the rest and refreshment it gives me enables me to be focused and strong in my next week of work. Taking a Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments for good reason. I heard a pastor once say that if you don’t take a Sabbath day, you are telling God you can do more with 7 days per week than He can do with 6. That really got me!
There are many ways to help yourself or your ministry team members avoid church burnout, but I’ve found that the ones listed above have been the most instrumental in my life. I believe the first point, staying spiritually strong, is the most important because as you stay close to God, He will guide you in the other ways that are pertinent to you and your life. If we make sure we are listening to Him and following His guidance, He will make sure our journey is not derailed due to burnout and He will direct us to rest, refreshment and excitement for serving once again.
“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” Prov 3:6 (TLB)
Cortni Marrazzo currently resides in Spokane, Washington with her husband Jason and their two sons. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for ministry and encouraging the body of Christ. She and her husband currently serve as small group directors at their local church. You can contact her at Cortni.Marrazzo@gmail.com or on Facebook.
Publication date: October 28, 2015