How do you find the balance between doing ministry and burning out? How can I prevent burnout?
I believe everyone has their own natural rhythm, and they need to discover it.
On one hand, I believe in working hard, even pushing yourself, to get the work done. Ministry is hard work and it requires our full engagement. Fierce warriors like Paul, Peter, Ruth, Rahab, David, and Deborah got the work done.
But this can also become idolatrous, harmful, and create a messiah complex. So we need to know when we are approaching fatigue and resentment. We need to rest before we get there. Any ministry worker has to guard their time wisely and know when to say NO. We can’t save everyone, help everyone, and do all things all at once. I can only do a few things with effectiveness. It hurts me to say no, but I would rather be abrupt than dead.
Honestly, I don’t answer every question in my inbox. Maybe half. It would be impossible to answer everyone. I really wish I could — but I am one dude (I know how this makes me sound, and trust me, I know I’m a nobody begging for wisdom from the Only One who has it).
In a church setting, this means building up leaders who build up leaders. It means making disciples. If you’re a pastor or elder or teacher, then yes, try to make time for everyone — but prioritize that, and don’t feel bad for referring them to someone else who can do a better job. I can’t counsel a WWII veteran or a seriously drug-addicted prostitute, and I would be foolish to try.
Sometimes “burnout” is also wrongly diagnosed. Usually we think it means when we are at the end of our strength, but that isn’t always true. Some people get burned out because they are doing things that they are not wired for. A preacher won’t always be good at administration and a teacher won’t always be good at preaching. Often it’s our pride that stops us from using our gifts the way we were meant to.
Some of us get burned out because we’re not allowing a team effort and think “I can do it all myself,” or we are depending too much on the team and get disappointed. So it’s important to locate the source of burnout as well.
I would also make a time for “balcony” reflection. That means set aside time to think of what you’re actually doing and why. Think of the direction, the next five or ten years. I don’t mean to stress yourself out about it, but just to be certain that the momentum you’re building now can be sustainable for the long term. Anyone can start something: you need to know how to keep that going in the strength of God and your own capability.
Love you brother, praying for you.