How to Avoid Burnout as a Ministry Leader
Image: Christoph Hetzmannseder/Getty

How to Avoid Burnout as a Ministry Leader

Discover the necessary steps to regain strength and perspective.
Page 2 of 3

Be willing to seek professional help, too. In the continued spirit of transparency, I gladly share that I regularly spend time with a counselor who helps me process through the hardest parts of my life. Not only has professional help allowed me to heal from burnout, but it has actually made me a more effective leader. When the stresses of leadership cause me to withdraw, it’s helpful to have people who can speak into my life and provide the support I need without judgment.

2. Rest.

Consider this: rest is a command from God. The Sabbath was given to us by God so we could remember we are far more than our day-to-day work. Rest is necessary for us both physically and spiritually. Be intentional about taking time to rest. Plan it into your weekly schedule if you must. Unplug from the daily grind and disconnect from the digital world.

Leaders, please pay close attention: rest does not signal weakness. Stop trying to prove yourself by working harder, longer, faster, or better than everyone else. I’m not suggesting we should be lazy or give less than our best to our work, but rather keep everything in perspective.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. I’m naturally a very competitive person—especially with myself—and while this attribute has allowed me to innovate, create, and push myself (and others) toward excellence, it can be exhausting. My wife was probably the first to see signs of burnout, since she has a front-row seat not only to my ministry work, but also to my day-to-day life. I struggle with, what she calls, my “superhero” view of myself—feeling as though it’s up to me, and me alone, to save the world. For a long time, I thought I owed as much to every amazing—seemingly perfect—leader I had ever learned from and those who had invested in me. They worked hard, so must I. They became successful, so must I. They never dealt with burnout, neither would I—until I did.

Find something you enjoy aside and away from work that you love. Let it be fuel for your soul. Go for a walk. Watch a baseball game with your kids. Enjoy a great meal. Find something that speaks to you and fills you up inside—something that reminds you of the goodness of God in all parts of life. This will not happen accidentally. It requires intentionality on your part. Make sure you take time off. Put activities on your calendar. Ask others to hold you accountable to keeping a healthy schedule. Give your spouse or a close friend permission to take away your phone or turn off your computer whenever it becomes a distraction or begins to wear you out.

3. Invest in yourself.

This is not a selfish act. We are doing ministry (sometimes unpaid) because we care deeply about others. We want to help them love and serve God. We have been willing to do whatever it takes, and hopefully, our sacrifices are viewed as commendable. But we cannot give what we do not have.

Without investing in yourself, burnout is guaranteed. Find a mentor or coach who can speak into your life. Rather than perpetually preparing for the next leader training event, take time to reflect on Scripture, letting God’s word speak comfort, inspiration, and healing to your spirit before speaking into the life of someone else.

Leadership expert John C. Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” People are following you, but you can’t lead where you’ve never gone.

More on Healthy Ministry Leaders

Related Training Tools

Soul Care for Leaders
Soul Care for Leaders
Everything you need to encourage healthy leadership in your ministry
Spiritual Disciplines for Leaders
Spiritual Disciplines for Leaders
Practices that can provide focus and refreshment for small-group ministry leaders