How to Beat Small-Group Burnout

How to Beat Small-Group Burnout

Be sure to take this good medicine for group leaders.

Moses worked very long, hard days mediating the disputes of God's people (Exodus 18), and then Moses got some feedback from his father-in-law, Jethro: "What you are doing is not good" (Exodus 18:17).

Moses insisted that he was the only one who could serve the people and that the people liked coming to him. Basically, Moses was co-dependent on the people of God. It made him feel good. But, one detail from this account shows why it wasn't good: Moses' wife, Zipporah and his sons were living with Jethro. Moses' busyness for God had separated him from his family. This was not good.

Elijah called down fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18), and then Elijah wanted to die. He started by doing exactly what God had directed him to do. With God's power and direction, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal. The result was not a big celebration. The outcome was a manhunt, and Elijah was that man. Jezebel wanted his head (1 Kings 19:2). You would think that doing God's work would be rewarded in better ways. Elijah survived for another day, but he was exhausted, depressed and ready to cash it in.

In today's church, you can avoid burnout in ministry. But you need to start before the fuse has burned to the end.

Pass Around the Leadership

As the small-group leader, you can give away responsibility on practically every aspect of your group: leading discussions, opening your home, bringing refreshments, taking prayer requests, following up on new members and absentees, planning social events, pursuing outreach opportunities, recruiting new members.

The only thing that a leader can't give away is the overall responsibility for the group. It's up to you to make sure that things get done, but not to do everything yourself. It might be easier to do it yourself. You might like doing it yourself. But look at what happened to Moses, and don't go there.

Balance the Other Parts of Your Life

What else are you doing right now? Most of us need to work at a job and/or at home. We raise our kids. Some of us homeschool our kids. Then, there are kids' sports (and boy, that can quickly take over your life).

Beyond activity, you need to consider what changes have taken place recently. What is new this year: a job, a home, a baby, reduced income, cub scouts, a major health issue? We can only tolerate so much change at a time. Fortunately, God made time so that everything wouldn't have to happen all at once. Many things you have absolutely no control over. But, if you are feeling the stress of change, then opt out of optional changes for now. That doesn't mean putting off taking that class or losing weight or buying a new car forever, but put it off for now. Maybe wait a year.

A Co-Leader Is a Cure

Who really cares about your small group? Who's there every week and calls when they can't make it? Who has shown the ability to lead?

A co-leader can bring some welcomed relief when life gets to be too much. Everyone needs to take a break once in a while. That doesn't necessarily mean that you quit attending your group, but maybe you go through a season when you let your co-leader take the lead.

The big key here is communication. Make sure that you are on the same page with the direction and focus of the group. That's not to say that your way is the only way, but people joined your group for a certain reason. If your group's purpose radically changes, then your group might not tolerate it. Shared leadership requires shared vision.

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