2 Questions to Prevent “Burnout”

This is a guest post by Chris Thatcher. Chris is a long-time friend–we met at Multnomah University, graduated together, and then stayed connected during the last decade of ministry. Chris and his wife and their two boys minister to students in Pendleton, OR. He’ll be guest posting here regularly.  I know you’ll enjoy his writing–he’s a fantastic youth minister.

youth ministry burnout student ministry

(Photo by Tanozzo at Creative Commons)

The request came on the heels of a bone crushing and heart wrenching “season” that left me starving for family time. The enthusiastic director asked, “Hey, would you be our keynote camp speaker”? Unfortunately, this leader was clear about not wanting speakers’ families present for various reasons.  Unlike some leaders, the presence of my family is an energy giver in ministry situations, and actually helps me focus.  While on the verge of burnout, I knew better, but accepted the invitation anyway.  What ensued was a draining week of ministry, in which I operated around 60% of my capacity and returned to my lovely family at about half of that.

Most pastors and professionals I know are heavily invested leaders not looking to fill their schedules with more commitments. As leaders, many of us correctly feel the need to model a respectable work ethic for those in our care. After all, no one wants to follow a lazy leader (I do not).  However, no wants to follow a burned out leader either!

God blessed that week at camp, but I learned a huge lesson from the Scripture about avoiding burnout when that additional invitation or opportunity comes my way.

Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

When additional opportunities knock in 2013, consider asking two questions to avoid burnout:

First, has God created me for this good work?

As a Christian, you are created in Christ Jesus for good works.  However, has God created you for this good work? Many opportunities are truly good for God’s kingdom, for which you have passion! However, consider God may have created you to do something that may not be yours to do. In my case, I was sure I could fulfill the request based on God’s gracious gifting in my life. Then, I confused flattery with calling! Flattery from being asked can be a terrible and merely human motivator. So, when your schedule stacks up and opportunity knocks, prayerfully avoid the temptation and motivation of flattery.  Jesus did!

Second, has God prepared this opportunity for me beforehand? 

As a Christian, God has prepared good works for you beforehand that you should walk in them.  However, after 14 years of vocational ministry, I have learned two are not always better than one when accepting additional opportunities beyond my primary calling to a local church. You see, I had another week-long camp engagement just days after the one I had accepted.  I deduced, if God has prepared something for me to do, He is obligated to find time for me to rest.  Maybe this fallible thinking is why the command for Sabbath rest is to us, not God.   Even Jesus’ ministry on earth had limitations of time, focus, and physical energy (imagine that).  If there is no room for Sabbath rest between extra commitments, say no!

Why is it difficult for a good leader to say no when opportunity knocks? Click here to leave a comment.

(PS–Next time we’ll wrap up our series on small groups by looking at the ultimate small group–Jesus and the Apostles.)

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