How to Avoid Ministry Burnout
By the age of twenty, I was a young pastor’s wife thrown headfirst into the deep end of ministry. Although I knew what ministry entailed, I thought the difficult times wouldn’t come until at least ten years down the road. That was definitely not the case. In that first year of ministry, I had seen ministry burnout, bitterness, and backstabbing amongst staff members, deacons, and ministry wives. Now, four years down the road, I have seen affairs unravel young families, staff members living double lives, staff wives discouraging their husbands every chance they get, and men giving up on the calling God has given them to sell insurance or used cars.
I’ve heard it said that one out of every ten ministers will retire as a minister in some form and that 50% of the ministers starting out will not last their first five years in ministry. Why? How does this occur to so many in ministry?
Adrian Rogers told a story about a staff member who had to be released because of some egregious sin. When asked how it was possible for a man of God to fall so far, he responded, “You do not know how close to the line he was actually living.”
Today’s church culture is consumed with worshipping at the idol of self. This idea of self-worship creeps into the leadership of the church. Eventually, this leads to pastors enduring what is known as “ministry burnout.” When we try to serve God from within ourselves, the burnout is not far away. Not only do pastors experience burnout, but so, too, can women in your women’s ministry and pastors wives. The sin of ministry burnout can slowly creep into our hearts unless we guard ourselves with scriptural truth. In Isaiah 40:28-31, we can identify three truths that will guard us from ever experiencing the sin of ministry burnout.
Truth 1: God is Sovereign
In verse 28, we read that God is the “Everlasting God, the Creator.” The understanding of God as being Creator leads us to recognize him as the Sovereign Ruler. As such, God has made it abundantly clear that He is the ultimate provider for all that He has created. Spiritually, we know that God provides because when man fell in Genesis 3, God sent forth His Son to provide reconciliation and restoration in our relationship to God the Father. Furthermore, God is our Provider physically. Jesus exclaims in the Sermon on the Mount that all food, shelter, and clothing are provided for those who are part of the Kingdom of God. Even still, God provides for us emotionally. Scripture teaches that we can cast our burdens on Jesus because He cares for us (1 Pt 5:7, Ps 55:22). “Ministry Burnout” happens when we fail to recognize God as Sovereign Ruler. Because God is the Sovereign Ruler, we can have peace and assurance that He will provide what we need for every situation.
Truth 2: We Must be Humble
In verse 29, we see that God provides strength to the weary and powerless. It is not until man comes to the end of himself that God strengthens. In a day where the number of likes, shares, and followers define your value on social media, it is easy to get caught up in the sin of self. Sometimes, the people of God allow the sin of self-worship to extinguish their fire for serving the Lord. An audience of One is no longer enough. We seek to please an audience of many. Therefore, because God is abundantly powerful, we must submit and humble ourselves in order to have His strength to overcome “ministry burnout.”
Truth 3: We Must be Patient
We see that only those who trust in the Lord will be renewed (v. 31). In churches today, we don’t like to have a “be still and know” attitude. We have no problem doing God’s work; we just don’t want to do it God’s way. Lets be honest: Sometimes God’s way is much harder and entails a longer process. However, that is ministry. Burnout occurs when we try to do God’s work our way. In ministry, we often let other people tell us that waiting and being patient will put us behind. But we must be patient and trust in Lord and His timing to overcome the sin of “ministry burnout.”
Ladies, I understand that you may juggle one hundred different things and wear more hats than you have room for in your closet. Whether it is studying for you’re weekly assignments and term papers, keeping up with the women in your church like you do with your young children, or just trying to have a daily quiet time, life is hard. In order to guard ourselves from burnout, we must be well-watered women who dive head first into the Scriptures, allowing His truth to saturate our hearts and His promises to overflow from our mouths.