10 Helpful Ways to Avoid Church Burnout

10 Helpful Ways to Avoid Church Burnout

Let’s face it: being a pastor, ministry leader or super involved church volunteer is so hard. Between balancing life and work and maintaining an intimate relationship with God through it all can be tough. What can you do to protect yourself and your family from burnout? Here are some suggestions for avoiding church burnout:

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  • 1. Rest

    1. Rest

    So many leaders skimp on sleep and opt to get more work done. While they are checking items off of their to-do list, their physical health are paying the price. Sleep is essential not only to be more productive, but that we can live quality, fulfilled lives. It is better to rest and recharge and start fresh the next morning than to work long hours to your body’s detriment.

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  • 2. Find a Hobby

    2. Find a Hobby

    Constantly meeting others needs while neglecting your own is a sure path to burn out. What interests do you have? Do you like to fish? Hunt? Read a book? Complete a puzzle? Invest your free time in something that you cannot only look forward to at the end of a day, but also something that you can redirect your focus. This will help give your brain and emotional health the break it needs.  

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  • 3. Play

    3. Play

    A few years ago, my family and I took a vacation to a water park. I had never been to a water park and with my poor swimming skills I was hesitant to participate. But my young son beckoned and I couldn’t resist. I stayed in the shallow end, slid down the slides and splashed water at each other. Afterwards, I felt like a kid again! Kids understand the importance of experiencing their world through play. When did it become commonplace for adults to stop having fun? Become a kid again and rediscover the gift of play. You won’t regret it. 

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  • 4. Find a friend

    4. Find a friend

    Ministry leaders and church volunteers need friendship, whether it is others in the ministry or other people outside the walls of their church. This provides them with an outlet for fellowship as well as a listening ear when times get rough. If you haven’t made friendship a priority, challenge yourself to spend a month really working at growing the friendships you already have.

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  • 5. Commune with God

    5. Commune with God

    Would you be surprised to learn that some pastors don’t have any relationship with God outside of their workweek? The same can be true for ministry leaders and volunteers. You can’t give what you don’t have. If leaders want their congregation members to have a vibrant relationship with God, leaders must lead by example. A strained spiritual relationship will spill over into every facet of your life if left unchecked. 

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  • 6. Set Proper Boundaries

    6. Set Proper Boundaries

    Being a ministry leader is hard. Pastors in particular never stop giving and often work hours outside of the normal workweek. For example, they may need to be in the hospital all night to comfort family members when a church member is ill. They may officiate weddings and funerals in addition to a 40-hour workweek. For ministry leaders and volunteers, you might not be doing quite as much, but boundaries can still be a struggle if you are the kind of person who always says yes when asked to help out. When applicable, try to set a regular hour like any other job. Set up appropriate boundaries to protect your free time. Pastors, if you decide to work from 8-4 each day, come home on time. Put the computer away and give your family their undivided attention. You marriage and family will thank you for it. 

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  • 7. Observe the Sabbath

    7. Observe the Sabbath

    In addition to not setting proper work week schedules, pastors work seven days a week. Because Sundays are their busiest day of the week, it makes it more difficult to take a Sabbath. Pastors need to be flexible in this area, and so do ministry leaders and church volunteers. Even if you can’t take a consistent day off, commit to taking one day off a week. For some leaders, this may mean taking a Friday or a Saturday. Whatever day works, stick with it as best as you can. You may have to make some exceptions, but taking a day off not only honors the biblical commandment, but you’ll never regret the mental and emotional rest you receive.

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  • 8. Take regular breaks

    8. Take regular breaks

    My son, who is homeschooled, gets easily distracted. To combat this, he takes frequent breaks throughout the day. For example, after every hour (or class is completed, whichever comes first) he takes a ten-minute break. During this time he can surf the web, get a snack or play with our dog. When he comes back, he can shift gears to the next subject. Church leaders and volunteers can benefit from this as well. With a jam-packed schedule, it may be tough for you to shift gears. Take frequent breaks after each meeting or, for pastors, after an hour of sermon prep. Evaluate your productivity afterwards. Did you find you got more done?

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  • 9. Be accountable

    9. Be accountable

    In addition to a little or non- existent relationship with God, pastors and ministry leaders may be struggling with sins they can’t confess to anyone else. You need to find someone with whom you can meet regularly, whether by phone or email, to confess sins receive encouragement and be challenged when necessary. Just one hour a month can go a long way in reaping the spiritual, mental and emotional benefits every leader needs.

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  • 10. Take a vacation

    10. Take a vacation

    Even Jesus took time away to go to solitary places and get away from his daily demands. Although a Sabbath helps you rejuvenate from the daily grind, you need to take an extended time away as well. Even if you can’t afford a vacation, a staycation can be just as effective. Plan to take a few day trips to the beach or an amusement park. Just a few days out of the office and enjoying life can make the difference between a tired, weary church leader or volunteer, and a rejuvenated, passionate one. 

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    Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.