On Burnout

A new vlog on issues surrounding ministerial burnout. Question: What are some other signs and cures for ministerial burnout? Got any good cures?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “On Burnout

  1. Here are some suggestions:
    1-Do not equate your job performance with yourself.
    2-Remember, while you want to change the world, only God can do this. It is between God and the person. You are only the messenger. Don’t place the burden upon yourself of thinking if I don’t “save the world” I am not doing well.
    3-Watch physical health-eat correctly, learn to sleep correctly, take time to play and enjoy life.
    4-Learn to laugh at yourself-it helps.
    5-Never,ever, place undo standards upon yourself-do not make your own life difficult-it is hard enough without your help!
    6-Remember to pray constantly, seek God diligently-do not neglect your own personal spiritual time. Balance the time preparing for next Sunday with your own time with God.
    7-Working with people is never easy-when people say unkind things, it is necessary to have a “thick skin”. Easier said than done. It does take a toll-find someone to unburden to-preferably not your spouse-someone who is very unconnected with what you do, who will point out the obvious.
    8-ASK FOR PRAYERS FROM OTHERS. Surround yourself with prayer.
    9. Remember, Jesus said my yoke is light-don’t make it heavy.
    Basically, resist the temptation to place upon yourself the concept that I am not doing good so therefore I am terrible as a thinking mode. As odd as this sounds, relax and don’t take yourself seriously (all the time). This doesn’t mean to not care, but to learn where to place the burdens and concerns.
    IF your leadership is not supportive-then move on-supportive leadership is very important in keeping your head straight.

  2. Hi Tim! Thank you for your video and your thoughts you shared. I am reading a book just now called Ex-Pastors: Why Men Leave The Parish Ministry by Gerald J Jud and others (the book was published in 1970 so it is probably long since ceased to be published). I am going to write a book report on it for school. It talks about reasons why men and women leave pastoral ministry. I wonder how much burnout factored into their decisions. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. God bless. Grace and Peace.

  3. As long as we are treated like employees and not brothers and sisters in Christ, burnout always lurks in the shadows. Unfortunately, the ecclesiology of Churches of Christ offers no alternative but to treat ministers this way, thus the possibility of burnout and abuse is always present. Burnout doesn’t come from working too hard, it comes when your work doesn’t make a difference. The system is just skewed that way. It’s become a business.

  4. Now for a few cures…
    Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your ministry staff. Especially if delegation and team-building is an area of weakness, help connect them with people to get them organized and help them not get stuck with too much work. If someone else can do a task your minister is doing, they need to do it.
    Send your minister away 2-4 weekends a year. If they’re married, send them with their spouse. If they have kids, line up childcare so they can go and not worry about their kids. And the church should cover the costs of travel, lodging and meals.
    Simplify (or eliminate) programming that cannot be led by a volunteer. Ministers have too much on their plate.
    As it is appropriate, spend time with one of your ministers as a friend every week or two. No “shop talk” allowed. Go to a movie, play golf, catch a sports game, get coffee, grab a meal, etc.
    Look for opportunities to catch your minister doing something good (instead of critiquing things) and honor them regularly. One of the great things about the place I work now is that my team leaders reward excellence often with things like $10 Starbucks cards, dinner gift certificates, movie tickets, etc. Knowing that I am appreciated makes tough days much more bearable.
    I hope this helps you take care of your ministers!

  5. As a burnout who left vocational ministry, I have a few thoughts on the subject. Here were a few of my signs.
    1) I took on too much ministry busywork. As a combo youth/worship guy, I was forever making PowerPoint slides, handouts, music, permission slips, etc. My delegation deficiencies were a big piece of my burnout.
    2) I didn’t have enough people to treat me like a normal person, rather than a minister. I had a small group, but even they weren’t good at helping me be a regular joe.
    3) I didn’t take enough time off and away from ministry. Part of that was due to needing to use vacation time to visit family – all of whom lived no closer than a 6 hour drive away. Part of it was personal disorganization, so I used what should have been down time to finish up stuff for my next service or meeting.
    4) I didn’t fit well with the rest of church leadership, and together we had a tough time creating a clear vision and purpose for what I was doing. This led to a lot of criticism and disunity on staff.

  6. tim, thanks for sharing. i don’t have more signs/cures, but i did have a related question. for those of us who aren’t ministers/staff but are “just members,” what can we do to help ministers/staff to avoid burnout, or to help them cope if they are already burned out?