Avoiding burnout in a difficult year
| September 22, 2020
2020 has been a year full of unforeseen challenges, to put it mildly. You’ve probably had to shift gears repeatedly to deal with the latest curveball thrown your way. If you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and always on alert for the next battle, you’re not alone. Ministry isn’t easy in a typical year, but this year has been anything but typical.
Pastor Carey Nieuwhof wrote this a few years ago in a post about his burnout experience:
“I could get out of bed every day, and I did. I kept praying and reading my Bible. But my speed decreased to a snail’s pace. And hope felt like it had died. My motivation and passion dropped to zero.”
Thankfully, Pastor Nieuwhof was able to emerge successfully out of his burnout experience.
Hopefully, you aren’t to the point of zero motivation or passion for ministry. However, working to exhaustion and trying to do it all is a sure-fire way to get there.
Even in a season as difficult as 2020, burnout isn’t inevitable. Avoiding burnout will require you to make some tough decisions and possibly do things that feel selfish at first.
Here are a few tips to preventing burnout along the way:
No. 1: Lower Expectations
If your church launched its first online service this year due to COVID-19, it’s not going to look as polished as a church that’s been running online services for a decade.
Go ahead and accept that fact and be OK with it. Do what you can to make the online experience run smoothly. Let’s do our work as unto the Lord. Just don’t compare yourself to churches who’ve been doing this for a long time.
No. 2: Be Ruthless with the Calendar
What’s on the church calendar for the remainder of 2020? Granted, there may not be a lot of in-person events planned due to the pandemic. However, you might still have a lot on the calendar between upcoming holidays and efforts to help your congregation and community.
While that’s great, be careful about what you allow onto the schedule. Don’t overbook yourself or your team. Chances are decent that you’ll have to change plans at some point anyway, so the fewer moving pieces to manage, the better.
No. 3: Get Counseling
If you’re not quite feeling burned out yet, why get counseling now? Consider it preventative medicine. If you’d rather not do counseling at this time, then find a mentor and schedule regular times to talk. Everyone else unloads on you — church staff, members of the congregation, critics, etc. You need someone who can be that trusted sounding board for you.
No. 4: Pay Attention to Your Physical Health
How we feel physically impacts our emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Add in a global pandemic with cold and flu season approaching, and we all need to pay attention to how we care for our physical health.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Eat healthy foods most of the time. Exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water. These simple steps can help you focus, will ensure you have more energy, and enable you to think more clearly.
No. 5: Refresh Your Spirit
Take time to read the Bible and pray. Reserve time to do this for your own spiritual walk, not for sermon preparation. Even if it’s 10 minutes over coffee in the morning, that’s a good start.
No. 6: Do Something Purely for Fun
Go on a date with your spouse (even if it’s a takeout picnic on the deck at home). Play with your kids. Go fishing, golfing, or read a fiction book. Do something just for the sake of laughing and having a good time.
Ministry is hard work that requires you to be at your mental, spiritual, and emotional best. If you’re feeling the strain, please get some help. Even if you’re not feeling near burnout, go ahead and get started with these tips to prevent burnout from happening.
Your family, staff, and congregation need you at your best. You’ve got to take care of yourself to make that happen. That motivation isn’t the least bit selfish.
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