LEADER burnout ministry

6 Steps to Avoid Ministry Burnout

Ministry burnout is a reality—and you have likely either experienced it previously, you are currently in the midst of it, or you are working hard towards it. With the growing demands on church staff, combined with diminishing budgets and busy calendars, the stress and pressure can continue to pile up. Here are 6 steps to help leaders avoid ministry burnout.

1. Learn to say no!

Learn to say no—and say it more frequently than you prefer. You are one person, so you can’t do everything. That is not a realistic or healthy expectation. Permit yourself to say, “No. I’m sorry, but I cannot do that.” Part of your job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. When you say “no,” it allows others to step in and contribute their time and talents to the ministry, as well.

2. Use the “Off” button on your cell phone! 

Most people today have a smartphone—complete with a myriad of amazing features and cameras. However, one of the most important—and underused—features of a cellphone is usually the “Off” button. When was the last time your phone was off? Airplane mode or the ringer turned to off does not count. If you want to avoid ministry burnout, set aside time to turn your phone completely off. Family dinner time is an excellent opportunity to practice this skill. If you are brave, consider leaving it off until breakfast the following day.

3. Take two days off each week. 

Yes, Sunday is a workday. Saturday is usually an off day. Please find one other day to take off each week. Whatever day you choose, communicate your choice to your ministry, and stick with it. Everybody else in the church is probably taking two days off, so you should, as well. Take a walk, sleep, read a non-ministry-related book, and spend time with your family. Enjoy a mini-weekly-sabbath rest.

4. Listen to your family!

If your spouse and children are saying they miss you, they probably really do. If your family is telling you that you are not yourself, that’s a good indicator you may be beginning to burn out. The people that love you the most are the people that know you the best. Whether you serve in ministry for one year or 20 years, your department and the people you serve are temporary. You will move on at some point, and the people you serve will move on after you leave. Your family is permanent. Burning out in ministry and your home is not good for either.

5. Sleep at night, cut back on the caffeine, and eat right.

Put down the can/cup by 4 p.m., eat something more that leftover pizza and stale goldfish crackers, and go to bed at a reasonable time. The quickest path to burnout in ministry is by burning out physically and mentally. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so treat it that way. Take the time to wind down and let go of the day, and then lay down and sleep for a solid 8 hours. 

Nothing is going to be accomplished overnight through your worrying and obsessing. Also, be aware of what you are putting into your body. Over-caffeinating and over-eating will deplete you physically and can even lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

6. Organize, organize, organize, and stay organized!

Download an app, buy a calendar, find a whiteboard, and get rid of the sticky note wall. Sit down on the first day of your workweek and set your schedule, agenda, and calendar. Plan your lesson and teaching schedule in advance. Consider creating a scope and sequence for the coming year. However, you decide to organize, commit to sticking with the system. To learn how, read Why Leaders, Directors, and Ministers Need To Be Organized.

Ministry burnout is a real problem, but it is often ignored. Ministry burnout doesn’t mean you have missed your calling or that you are not passionate about the gospel. It doesn’t mean you no longer love your church or that you are lazy or need more training. It means you are human. 

Dan Istvanik has been working in youth ministry for 25 years, serving in churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Washington DC.  He is a speaker, ministry coach, writer, and contributor to other ministry resources. You can contact Dan at  www.mymresources.com, where he shares student ministry resources.


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