Using Summer To Beat Burnout

By Dick Loizeaux 

Often I hear pastors say something like “I am fried (exhausted, weary, burned out, etc.). I can’t wait for vacation.” When I check in with them after their vacation they tell me how rejuvenated they feel. That’s good, right? Maybe not. Because often they are back to “fried” before Thanksgiving and longing for their Christmas break. They get renewed after Christmas. But then they are fried after Easter. Does this sound familiar? Do you experience a cycle something like that? Are you often longing for the next break from ministry?

Well, the problem may be that your vacation gives relief from the symptom of the pain without addressing the causes. Like popping a painkiller for a backache, instead of finding and curing the cause of the backache.

For a quick overview of burnout factors, click here to read Thom Rainer’s recent blog “Autopsy of a Burned Out Pastor” where he identifies 13 factors, and see which ones apply to you. Then let’s talk about solutions.

Figured out which ones you struggle with? Repeatedly? Okay, now let me simplify it. In my experience there are really two primary sources of burnout that account for all of the 13 items on Thom’s list: An unresolved problem or an unbalanced schedule.

Unresolved problems: Going away on a vacation is not really relaxing if you know you have to return to the same problems you left. You just worry about the problem over vacation, and dread returning, right? At any given point in time most pastors have a very draining problem (VDP). The best relief is to address the problem quickly and directly. Stop complaining about your governing structure and begin to revise it. Stop complaining about that staff person and get them on a path of “improve or remove.” Stop complaining about your board and begin to develop your next generation of leaders to replace the current ones. Stop complaining that your congregation is not interested in reaching the lost and find one person who will work with you to reach the lost and start there. Stop complaining that your church is dysfunctional. Identify the dysfunction and either develop a plan to cure it or seek God’s permission to move on. Stop complaining that your salary is too low. Either give competitive compensation data to your board and ask for a raise, or develop outside sources of income. Get the point? To keep from getting fried, stop taking pain pills. Identify the source of the pain and takes steps to fix it.

If you can’t figure out the answer to your problem, get help. Contact Dick Loizeaux and let’s see what resources or coaching we can bring in to help you figure out how to solve the problem. Or maybe the problem is that you do know the answer but are avoiding the conflict. Then get help. Use the Ministers Assistance Program (MAP) so a counselor can help you conquer your conflict avoidance or develop the inner strength and skills to navigate conflict. If you are already in conflict, ask Dick at Converge to assist your church with a conflict resolution process. Understand this: the pain will not go away until you take responsibility to either fix it or find healthy ways to deal with it.

Unbalanced Schedule: You have probably read a ton on this, right? And you probably are not living half of the things you know to do, right? Welcome to the club. So why are you not taking the steps you know you need to take to correct them? For me, it was a fear of failure that caused me to have to be in control. For others, it might be an ego issue (you think you are the smartest person in the room), an insecurity issue  (you need to prove you are the leader by being involved in everything), the need to be liked (you can’t say “No”), a theological error (God appointed me and the church can’t thrive without me), or something else. You medicate your insecurity, fear, need to be liked, or whatever, by high-control and over-work. That is your pain pill. And that is why you burn out. You will never control your schedule until you control the things inside of you that cause you not to do what you know you need to do in order to live a balanced life. The solution: get a handle on the issues that are tripping you up. We all have them. That is why the Ministers Assistance Program (MAP) program exists. To learn more about the MAP click here. If you have a counselor you want to use who is not on the list, contact Wanda Manning at Converge MidAmerica.

Got the point now? To break the cycle of burnout, stop taking pain pills. Identify the source of the pain and take steps to fix it. Use this summer to take control of your life and ministry.  Identify your VDP (very draining problem) and fix it. Identify the dysfunction that causes you to choose not to live a balanced life and fix it.  Eradicate the causes rather than medicate symptoms. Then you can relax and enjoy a real vacation. You can give your people a model of healthy problem solving, healthy conflict resolution, and a healthy life-balance for them to follow. And just maybe, your example of a healthy Christian life is the most important ministry God has entrusted to you.







Dick Loizeaux