Managing Burnout

With long-term ministry—that is, ministry over the long haul—there is one big danger zone: Burnout.

But burnout has two different faces. First, there’s a burnout that comes from overwork and no margins. The danger with a margin-less lifestyle is when a crisis hits, there’s no emotional energy to deal with it. Second, there is the monotony and, dare I say it, boredom of routine. The reality is that so much of your job is the same thing over and over and over. Big deal, you say—every job has monotonous routines. But I think most people going into ministry have an idealized view of it. We got into ministry because we wanted to see lives transformed, to make a difference in our world. Instead, by year seven, it’s…

  • setting up the same chairs for the same meetings every week...

  • another weekend celebration to plan for—another worship set, another “life-changing” message, another cue-sheet for lighting, another weekend of volunteers not showing up…and knowing that it never ends...

  • creating an agenda for another board meeting...

  • entering data every week on the same spreadsheet...

  • another parishioner upset about something (pick a number)...

  • another meeting followed by another meeting followed by another meeting...

  • or even in the messy world of people in terms of pastoral care, it’s another funeral and another wedding and another marriage blowing up and another person with impossibly screwed up finances…or whatever. It never seems to end. There are different faces, but the problems are basically the same and they’re endless. It’s not like being a carpenter and building something and seeing it finished; it seems you’re never done in the “people business”.


Because of routine, it’s easy for a slow drift toward entitlement…as in “I deserve _______ because of _______” (fill in the blanks). It’s the absolute worse way to handle burnout…and dangerous. During my decades of pastoring, I went through dry seasons where it seemed I had this eight-foot wall with razor wire on top between God and me. But here’s what I discovered: There’s a whole lot to be said for simple faithfulness, for just putting one foot in front of the other. When I’m not sure I even feel like getting out of bed, it’s time to remind myself: this is not about me. It’s not about how I feel. It’s not about me getting recognition from God or anyone. It’s about faithfulness. It’s about perseverance. It’s about Jesus saying to His disciples at a tough point, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” If one has to endure, that implies there must be some long, tough, dry times. Maybe it’s even about us saying to Him at the end of our lives, “Uh, Jesus, when did we see you in prison? When did we see you hungry and we fed You? When did we see you naked and we clothed You?”inferring there are huge times in our lives when we have no awareness of God and we’re just bumbling along doing what we think is something we should be doing for Jesus and meeting Him without knowing it. And apparently, that’s okay. It’s not always goosebumps. The apostle Paul recognized this when he wrote: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9) So for all you pastors and leaders, remember: When you’re in your worst seasonal spiritual drought, it may be that you simply have to put one foot in front of the other and don't look back. In my forty-six years of following Jesus, the rainy season eventually comes.


Question of the Day: Where are you finding encouragement in a season requiring perseverance?

Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES



ELEMENTAL CHURCHES | 4685 SARAH DRIVE, MASON, OH 45040 | 513.400.4595

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