On the church calendar there seems to be a slight pause after Christmas where we catch our breath, and then it feels as if we immediately begin preparation for Easter. This steady busyness can easily lead to weariness, burning the candle at both ends, and even burnout.
How do we avoid getting to this place of burnout? We love serving, teaching, and leading, but when we become physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, we lose our joy. We don’t want to dread doing what used to be our passion.
There are habits ministry leaders and staff can learn that create greater safeguards to avoid burnout. We must be intentional in preventing that soul-weariness by caring for our own souls.
Here are 6 ways to avoid burnout:
1) Put your priorities on the calendar.
You and I both know that we have great intentions, but if something is not actually on our calendar, it normally just won’t happen. So just as your deacon’s meeting is a non-negotiable on your calendar, you have to calendar in the things that are most important to you. Your calendar will actually show your priorities.
2) Have someone hold you accountable.
We all need that one person, other than our spouse, who has permission to ask us the hard questions and hold us accountable. We need someone who is given access to our lives, the good and the ugly. If we don’t have that person, it becomes way too easy to pretend with other people and think that we are doing okay when we are actually headed toward a dangerous place.
3) Make Sabbath a non-negotiable.
You were designed to rest. God set that aside and made it a priority from the very beginning of time. We aren’t made to be perpetually productive. Rest in and of itself is productive and necessary. Sunday, for most of us, is not the day we rest. So choose a different day during the week to disconnect from work and ministry and care for your soul. Do the things that are life-giving to you and lead by example for your family in allowing them to rest as well.
4) Say no every time you say yes.
We want to say yes as often as possible and meet all of the needs that are brought to us. However, that is impossible and will literally kill us if we do that for long. For most of us, our calendars are already too full. So if you decide you need to or want to say yes to another commitment, then also say no to something else. If you put something else on your calendar or proverbial plate, then something else has to come off. Make a commitment to your spouse and your accountability partner to do this. This practice will help you truly weigh out the importance of what you say yes to and not agree to something lightly.
5) Never stop learning.
When we get so busy that we don’t have time to learn new things, we also stop growing. Give yourself permission and time to read, watch, and listen to things that interest you and fuel your passions. This is something else you may need to calendar in or find the hidden moments that we waste, such as the morning commute, right before bed, or even when you are getting ready for the day. Use that time creatively to feed your mind and heart with things that challenge and teach you. Listen to audio books or podcasts, read a book, article or blog post, watch a documentary, but do something that stretches you a bit.
6) Give yourself a soul check.
Every few months take some time to really take a look at how your heart and soul are doing. Some real signs of burnout are a constant tendency toward negativity, fatigue you can’t shake, dreading coming to work, not finding joy in things that you normally look forward to, finding yourself being unusually snappy and irritable, and wanting to isolate yourself. If you realize that you are experiencing some or most of these, then you need to sit down with those closest to you to see what changes need to be made.
You are the person most responsible and able to help yourself avoid burnout. Inevitably we will experience seasons of weariness. There will be some seasons where you may have to say no more than you say yes in order to take good care of your soul. If you don’t care for your soul though, you will not be any good to your family or congregation. We want to finish well, and that begins with taking steps and forming healthy habits of caring for ourselves.
Which one of these habits can you begin to put into practice this week?