Avoiding ministry burnout in the midst of COVID-19
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Have you ever run a marathon or other long-distance race? If so, you know how tempting it is to run a fast pace initially. Between the extra adrenaline pumping and energy from the crowd, it’s easy to blast off from the starting line.
That can work for a few miles, perhaps, but it will catch up to you. Pretty soon, you’re slowing way down, wondering if you’ll have enough energy to finish the race.
Are you feeling that right now? When the impacts of the pandemic started to hit, church teams scrambled to get online services up and running, set up online giving, and figure out how to stay connected with their congregations.
We’re past the initial sprint and past the adrenaline rush of “we have to get this done now.” In most areas, churches still aren’t allowed to meet and won’t be for possibly another month or more. Even where churches can start meeting, there are strict guidelines in place for reduced attendance at each service, additional sanitizing, and other mitigation steps.
As we enter the next phase of dealing with COVID-19, it’s easy to see this situation is a marathon…not a sprint. In light of that, please take care of your health as well. You’ve been focused on everyone else and may have had to pull some long days to make services happen. However, you won’t last long if you continue to run a marathon at a sprinter’s pace.
Your congregation probably doesn’t need 10 Facebook Live broadcasts every week. They don’t need 50 social media posts per day or a ton of curriculum for their children (they’re already overloaded dealing with schoolwork at home). However, they do need their church leaders around for the long haul. Here are a few simple ways to ensure you have the endurance needed for this long race.
Tip No. 1: Find out what’s working
Did you start posting several videos each week for various segments of the congregation (kids, youth, young marrieds, etc.)? If so, check the statistics on these videos. Is anyone watching? If so, talk with a few people in the congregation to see if those videos are helpful and what content they’d like to see moving forward.
If you’re running lots of posts on social media, check the statistics on those as well. If you’re getting lots of engagement and conversation, that’s great! If not, consider running fewer posts per day to see if that focuses more meaningful interaction into limited posts.
The idea here is to figure out what content is truly helping people, then focus down on those items. Don’t waste energy on activity that isn’t connecting.
Tip No. 2: Learn from other churches
Since we’re all dealing with this unique situation, there are plenty of churches to talk with or observe.
- Call pastors or church business administrators from churches in your area. Ask how they’ve pivoted recently and what’s working well for them.
- Watch webinars and read articles on how other churches are planning for the next phase in this pandemic.
- Also, look for groups of church leaders online to learn how they’re handling this situation. One such group is the Facebook Group for Executive Pastors and Church Business Administrators (full disclosure: I manage this group).
The bottom line here is you don’t have to figure this out on your own. That’s a quick way to burn yourself out. Instead, ask for help, ideas, and insights from others.
Tip No. 3: Get organized
Now that the dust has settled a bit, this is a great time to establish a new weekly routine. Set up a schedule for your team to develop the sermon message, shoot/produce the video, promote the sermon online and via email, handle the usual weekly/monthly tasks, etc.
Since you’re not in the office with your team, consider using an online project management tool such as Basecamp, Asana, or Monday (there are a ton out there…many with free trials available). These steps can streamline your workload so you can work a reasonable number of hours and have time for your loved ones and yourself.
Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to deal with COVID-19 for a long time to come. As you run this marathon, act now to set a more realistic pace for yourself and your team. Your family and your congregation need you to stay healthy (mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally) for the long haul.
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