Thursday, October 18, 2012

Church Burn Out

Read this article: Church Burnout Poll Results

Burnout among church workers is not new. Even the disciples knew the importance of spreading the work (Acts 6:1-7). Yet it still happens. Church workers are getting burnt out because [fill in the blanks]. There are so many reasons.

What is burn out? Check out this excerpt from

Everyone gets tired once in awhile from hard work, daily stresses and strains, and plain getting older, but a little rest is all that’s generally needed to recharge our battery. Burnout is a different phenomenon altogether, however. It makes us feel tired and lethargic even after prolonged rest. 
More psychological and emotional, rather than physical, burnout results from prolonged stress, overextension, and hurriedness. The nervous system gets stretched until it loses its resiliency and renewal capacity. The burnout victim finds it more and more difficult to snap back from hard work, to "get up" for challenges, and to adequately rest. Then the "blahs" set in (the so what? feeling) even in the absence of hard work and stress. 
That’s when you know you’re suffering from burnout. You’re tired all the time even though you haven’t done much of anything. You feel like withdrawing, even from activities previously relished. Before long you start to feel worthless.

Have you seen burn out in the ministry? Are you burnt out yourself? Burn out can look like a lot of things. It can look like a change in attitude or personality.  A burnt out person can seem meaner or oversensitive, lashing out on others or crying at everything with just the slightest or no provocation at all. Burn out can look like withdrawal from people, church activities, christian disciplines, and even from hanging out with friends.

I think ministry burn out is one of the hardest places to be in because most people don't understand. I've been in ministry for over 12 years, and one of the things I find so fascinating is watching church leaders learn. I've heard church leaders discuss burnout as something to be prayed for like all the burnt out person need is to attend a church revival, retreat, or go into a period of prayer and fasting (sackcloth and ashes optional). Then years later, the same leaders learn that ministry burn out is a very real thing, and they discuss about making sure leaders are sharing the load and supporting each other and so on.

Don't get me wrong. I wholly believe in the power of our living God, and prayer works. But sometimes we treat Christian disciplines and events like a cure-it-all pill. Depressed? Pray. Life crisis? Fast. Burnt out? Attend a revival. It's like we slap the "by the power of God" and "in the name of Jesus" phrases on a problem so we don't have to deal with it. And though God is a miraculous God, He also created doctors, psychologists, counselors, and yes, pastors and church leaders to help people, open lines of communication, offer practical guidance, and give medical advice and treatments.

Sadly, not everyone learns and changes their mind. There are still those who perceive burnt out workers as weak, or not sacrificing enough, or not committing enough to God, or not Christian enough. When these burnt out workers finally collapse, others talk about them and treat them like they backslid. Suddenly, they're not doing enough. Suddenly, something's wrong with them. Suddenly, they're not very good leaders. But worse is when the burn victims don't realize they're burnt out. They don't see the symptoms, don't understand their own feelings, and don't know who to turn to. So if you suspect that someone is burnt out, don't ignore it. Talk to that person. It's a first step towards help.

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