Surviving Church Burn Out: Seeking the Rest You Need
About a month or two before I burned out from church and ministry, I had started working at a church in a basically administrative office position. We were planning to move into the same area as this church after marrying, and I figured there was a good chance we’d also attend the church.
Then I crashed.
Then I visited the church.
I knew it wasn’t going to work. So many things frustrated and offended me. I have no idea how much I actually explained to folks at the time, but I knew that I couldn’t attend this church. I was too negative. I couldn’t worship God in this setting, and the thought of volunteer ministry conjured thoughts of the church machine draining me again.
I felt like such a sinner staying home from church. I knew some people were judging me. I was frustrated. I hated the thought of not being involved in ministry.
So much of my life had revolved around the church and ministry over the years that it killed me to step away from it. But I had to. Perhaps it’s the kind of thing that defies explanation to those who have never gone through a ministry crash.
No Christian I know wants to step away from the church. This is not something done with glee and joy.
Over the following years I sought Christian community in small groups, in my seminary courses, and online. At this time I began to wonder what the heck was going with me. Was anyone else frustrated and burned out by the church?
At that time I discovered a web site called The Ooze, began reading the blog of Jordon Cooper, and even had a chance to meet former pastor and founder of the Ooze Spencer Burke in a few classes. Spencer was asking the same hard questions, “Am I the only crazy one out there?”
I drove home after my first class with Spencer feeling like something at last over the past few years made sense to me. The church machine had damaged other folks, and here was Spencer still in love with Jesus, praying over our class, and helping us rethink ways to gather in healthy Christian community.
I could breath again.
The very concept of church didn’t repulse me. I could see a faint light at the end of the tunnel. I still needed my space from traditional church and ministry, but after a few classes with Spencer, I realized that God could still build his church.
From my friends and a local pastor who first identified my burn out problem, to Spencer and my classmates in seminary, I began to heal. But it wasn’t an easy process.
There was a significant cost.
I needed space. I needed time.
Are You Hurting?
If you’re committed to processing your church or ministry burn out in a healthy way, then the next important step is to seek out a period of rest. That means stepping away from ministry and possibly even a traditional church service for a period of time.
Prayerfully consider the steps before you and seek God’s peace as you move forward.
If church and ministry only leave you frustrated and angry, then you’ll just hurt everyone by processing these emotions in the thick of it. Give yourself time and space with some select Christians who can help you along your way.
Preventing Burn Out
If you’re not feeling burned out or frustrated with the church or ministry, you’re in a great position to begin taking periods of rest now, lest you crash. Most churches are using their man/woman hours on a paycheck to paycheck basis with next to nothing in the bank.
In other words, they have just enough people serving to keep things going each Sunday, but these volunteers rarely get a rest. That is an unsustainable pattern that leaders need to address before their volunteers crash and require a long period of time to recover.
It is far better to take short seasons of rest now so that we can serve for the long haul. If we don’t, we’ll run ourselves into the ground and cause ourselves a great deal of pain.
Next Week’s Post: Avoiding Overgeneralizations… From “Everything is Terrible” to Redemptive Steps