- Jim Bevis, Mid-South PastorCare
Burnout, Busyness, & Being
A Note of Encouragement, Especially for God’s Ministering Servants…
“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not loose heart.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1.
IS BURN OUT INEVITABLE?
As one who has had two massive burnouts in my 57 years of ministry, I feel I can speak with some authority on a condition which is affecting many of God’s ministering servants. Discouragement, disillusionment, and depression are not uncommon among ministers in all denominations, and very little is being done to alleviate this growing plague. Unchecked, a state of burnout may occur. The dictionary defines burnout as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork and stress.”
One of the symptoms of burnout is what Paul calls “loosing heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:116). For me, loosing heart meant I was “going through the motions” of ministry, but my heart was not in it. I had lost excitement, energy, and purpose. Exhaustion and survival were the two words that would best have described the state that I was in. Eventually, I found myself overwhelmed by even the most simple tasks and a “practical paralysis” set in, which prevented me from doing the work of the ministry. Burnout, in my case, resulted from constant activity and busyness, sleepless nights, feeling that I never had enough time, and inadequate rest. I remember days when I would just sit at my desk, look at the mounds of work, and find myself unable to to address even the most routine of tasks. Eventually, my brain began to “short out,” and others could tell the fatigue and exhaustion had caught up with me. Six months of complete rest from ministry ultimately resulted in the rebuilding of my adrenal gland which I had burned out.
NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION…
Let me say that there is hope, healing, and recovery for “weary saints” who are “under the pile.” By His Grace, I have not only recovered from burnout, but I have built into my personal and ministry lifestyle those things that will prevent me from “crashing” again. I have lightened my load, returned to the prayer room, made provisions for regular times of rest and recreation. In addition, the warning system God had placed within me, to warn me of overload, has now been re-sensitized, and I am beginning to heed those God-sent warnings. I now know when I am approaching fatigue and overload, therefore I “back off.” Sometimes I take a walk, pull away for a time from my work, and regain my footings. Rest, on a regular basis, including a weekly Sabbath, has become a part of my daily and weekly schedule. I have to be reminded quite often that God did not create me as a “human doing,” but as a “human being.” I now believe that ministry should focus more on relationships and being, rather than activities and doing.
I would welcome the opportunity to connect with any of you who read this article, if you feel I might help you in dealing with the burnout you are experiencing, or in avoiding burnout in your ministry. Contact me and we will talk. You can email me at email@example.com, or call me at (256) 335-8288.
If you would like a copy of CSR Ministries' booklet on ”Ten Signs of Leadership Burnout,“ let us know, and we will send one to you, free of charge. God’s best for you is not to burn out, rust out, or wear out – but to enjoy the journey, regardless of your calling.
I have learned that being willing to die for Christ is not the same thing as killing one’s self in His Name.