Ministers today seem to be in constant danger of “burning out.” “Burnout” happens when someone works so much they neglect other areas of their life. Eventually they push themselves past the breaking point, usually with calamitous results. Much leadership material is devoted to preventing burnout. It seems every book, conference, and workshop has an emphasis on “self-leadership.”
This concerns me. It should be obvious we can’t take care of others unless we first take care of ourselves. It should also be obvious we can’t lead people anywhere we ourselves haven’t been. If we aren’t healthy and spiritually mature, we will never lead our churches to health and spiritual maturity. Why are so many pastors learning this the hard way? Whatever happened to common sense in church leadership?
Our church’s Sr Minister resigned a few months ago. Since then, I have been serving as both Student & Interim Minister. That means I am preaching as well as directing staff and the daily affairs of the church – on top of overseeing my full-time ministry! This is the first time in my career when I could be in danger of burnout. But I am taking several steps of common sense to prevent it.
If you want to be a better leader, use common sense. Burnout is a symptom of immaturity. When a pastor burns out, it isn’t because he had too much to do; it’s because he didn’t attend to his personal life. Here are the steps I am taking to avoid burnout in my own life and ministry. If you want to be a better leader, you will too.
Be with God
Cultivate your own spiritual growth by practicing spiritual disciplines. I spend extended time in prayer and Bible study several times a week. Spend time with God because you want to be closer to Him, not because your job requires it.
Be with Your Family
Spend time at home with your wife and kids. Set boundaries to protect time with your family. I refuse to work past 5:30 or be gone more than 2 evenings per week. Your family only gets one you. Your church can easily replace you, but your family cannot.
Stay in shape. Watch your diet, exercise, and get enough rest. I go to the gym several times a week and stand at work. I also take a short nap after lunch. Staying healthy increases your productivity and usefulness for the Lord.
Take Time Off
Some think it’s noble to not take time off. It isn’t noble; it’s stupid. Set aside one or two days a week to not do anything church-related. And take your vacation time! I take off every Saturday and use all my vacation time. (This year I even asked for more!)
Get a Hobby
Get a hobby that relaxes you and takes your mind off church. This should be a real activity – not just watching TV. I read, write, do puzzles, and go to the city. Hobbies reduce your stress and help you develop new skills.
Get a New Job
If you do these things and still feel burned out, it may be time to quit. Ask your church’s governing board to reduce your workload. If they tell you to “suck it up” or “tough it out,” resign. A church that willingly burns out its pastor doesn’t deserve to have one.
How are you preventing burnout in your life and ministry? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
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One thought on “A Call to Common Sense Leadership”
This is a message high school and college students need to hear! Too much pressure is put on young people to fit others’ unrealistic expectations. Between advanced courses, extracurriculars, sports and religious involvement young people are virtually being taught that they are supposed to burn out. These things are good, but only if done in a balanced, sustainable way. The message of “work till you drop” needs to change, and as the church we should not conform to the world’s standard of workaholism.
Scripture shows that people commonly burn themselves out for money. For me this is a major temptation. But these verses remind me to restrain myself:
“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
Be wise enough to know when to quit” (Proverbs 23:4).
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Still we should pray that the Lord will grant us a diligent and motivated spirit to escape the snare of laziness. May He grant us the wisdom to balance our lives.