2 Very Practical Ways to Prevent Ministry Burnout

On Monday, I wrote about calloused calluses, when our hearts harden and we become spiritually dull. And I mentioned that the author of Hebrews seemed to know about ministry burnout.

Burnout is “the state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment” (psychologytoday.com).

According to the US National Library of Medicine, “The term ‘burnout’ was coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals experienced by people working in ‘helping’ professions.”

Burnout happens in the ministry. Here’s a good article from Leadership Resources about Christian Ministry Burnout. It has statistics (I like reading statistics).

I’ve heard other Christians wave away burnout with cliched phrases that boil down to this: if you’re burned out, you’re not Christian enough, don’t love Jesus enough, don’t pray enough, don’t whatever enough.

But that’s not true. Even the most well meaning Christian can experience ministry burnout if she doesn’t take care of herself. We need to take care of ourselves spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

take care

As someone who went through ministry burnout, here are two very practical ways to prevent it.

1. Talk.
You need a confidante, someone to share your burdens and frustrations with. Yes, we can talk to God, but we’re human and don’t always feel God. He’s always there, yes. He’s always listening. He always loves. You don’t have to argue that we need to get past our feelings and remember the promises of God, even read them in our Bibles. We can know all that in our minds, hearts, and spirits. But that loneliness you feel during burnout is just as real, just as true. And it can crush you.

Get that weight off your shoulder by talking to someone. Share your story. Find that person or circle of friends who will listen without judgement, offer shoulders to cry on, coffee and chocolate to make you feel better, and advice when you want it (and they’ll know when because they love you).

On the flip side, if you think someone you know is about to or is in the middle of a burnout, reach out. I’m horrible at reaching out to people. I don’t like to burden them with me. That’s twisted thinking, but it’s true for a lot of us. So reach out.

And on this note, I’m sending you over to the in(RL) conference. Share your story! Registration is free.

2. Rest
There’s a train of thinking that the modern woman can have it all by taking it all. By calling upon the strength that only women possess, we can slip on our 3-inch heels and march through our high powered careers, stroll through our motherhood duties, saunter and shimmy for date nights, and track success to our volunteer causes.

Rest is a two-word idea that happens once in a blue moon: spa day. Woman, you have the permission to rest more often than that. How?

Keep Sunday holy, for one. Make it a rule not to work on Sundays. If you find a stretch of time with nothing to do (say, like after church), do nothing. Enjoy a cup of coffee. Slip back into pjs and lounge around at home. Meander through a museum.

Ask to be placed in a rotation schedule for ministry duties. You cannot give what you do not have. You need that time of praise and worship. You need to hear the Word of God from someone else. You need fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Say no or scale back on your duties. It’s important not to overload your plate. It’s okay to say no than to burn out and do nothing. It’s okay to do less than burn out and do harm to yourself and to others.

Go on a ministry break. I don’t say that without consideration to other ministry leaders. I know it can be panic-inducing to be short on volunteers. But we all need breaks, time to breathe, space to reorganize and re-prioritize. I offer breaks to my volunteers, asking them to take turns and how long they need. Some need a few weeks, some months. Some realized they didn’t need a break, but they needed to scale back on their duties. And yes, I have to shuffle volunteers around if we’re “short,” but God is faithful to provide. We need to take care of the things He entrusted to us, that includes the well-being of volunteers.

Go on consistent vacations. If you’re already suffering from burnout, rest and vacation will do you no good because something in you already broke. It’s like a factory machine. One day, it started clangingThe operator shuts it down. A week passes by. The operator turns the machine back on, but the clanging is still there. To prevent the clanging in the first place, the machine need routine maintenance. It is shut down and inspected consistently.

You need to enjoy life consistently. Go on vacations or daycations or staycations consistently. Get away. Find a change of pace, a new scenery, and a breath of fresh air to rejuvenate and energize yourself.

Talk and rest are two very practical ways to prevent burnout. You can even do them at the same time! But if you’re already burned out, seek help from a professional. Take care of you because you are very important. (Tweet that!)


Linking up with Fellowship Fridays.

Bible Study: Hebrews 6, Calloused or Callused

Torturous wires taut across the neck, turning at the headstock, and slicing across the pads of a newborn guitarist’s fingers. The pianist inside me, trained in ramrod straight sitting and graceful keys lilting, protested at the intrusion of nylon and steel. It was too much, too painful, and I gave up before my fun manicured fingers became callused and hard.

Inspect the fingers of a guitarist and you’ll find telling calluses, evidence of devotion to her art.
Inspect the balls of a dancer’s feet and you’ll find telling calluses, evidence of devotion to her art.
Inspect the palms of a gymnast and you’ll find telling calluses, evidence of devotion to her art.

Inspect the heart of a Christian and you might find calluses. But what stories do they tell?

A callus is a thick and hard part of the skin, developed through friction over a period of time. Guitarists, dancers, and gymnasts want them because they help. Guitar strings are pressed harder. Barefoot turns are executed better. Bars are gripped easier.

In the hearts of believers, however, calluses have two stories to tell.

First, they can be evidence of devotion. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the better we can endure hardships and trials. Our hearts and spirits are callused in a way that prepares us for what comes our way. We are callused in a way that helps us hold onto God and our faith even when it seems like our world is falling apart.

A new believer does not have those kinds of calluses simply because she’s only begun her walk with God. Like a beginner guitarist, dancer, or gymnast, it will take time, experience, and perseverance before calluses appear.

But there’s the second kind of calluses we don’t want. We don’t want calloused calluses.

Read: Hebrews 6 (NLT)

Callused: having formed or produced a callus

Calloused: hardened, insensitive, indifferent

In chapter 6, the author of Hebrews addresses believers who are veterans of the faith. These are believers who know the fundamentals or basic teachings of Christianity (v1-3). These are believers who have been serving other believers (v10), or in other words, believers in the ministry.

He instructs them to mature and move forward. Then he encourages them with these words (v9-12):

Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

To me, it sounds like the author knew about ministry burnout. He knew about calloused calluses.

Anyone in the ministry knows how hard it is. It can be easy to get caught up in the passion of the front lines: dressing up for VBS, playing on stage every Sunday, greeting every person that walks through the front doors of the church, sharing your insights on Scripture.

But the rose-tinted glasses come off pretty quickly. Behind every costume are months of planning. Behind every instrument are late night practices. Behind every greeting, getting up early to arrive at church before on-time. And behind every Scripture insight, days on your knees, praying, maybe crying.

Behind every ministry is this gut-wrenching, messy, holding-your-head-above-water, giving totally, receiving hardly anything, kind of love.

And it’s easy to become calloused, that’s with an “o.” Calloused. Hard. Insensitive. Indifferent. Spiritually dull. Because it’s hard, because it can be lonely, because it can be crushing.

But there’s hope! I love how there’s always hope :-)

Hebrews 6:18

God gave us His promise and His oath. These two are almost synonymous, but an oath usually “invokes a divine witness” (Google). An oath is a “promise strengthened by such an appeal [to a deity or revered person or thing]” (Dictionary.com).

God bound Himself with an oath, using His own name (v13), so that we can be “perfectly sure” God won’t change His mind about us (v17).

Do you feel as if your ministry – in church, at home, in the community or work place – is beating you up? Is your spirit in danger of indifference and dullness? Is your heart in danger of calloused calluses? Don’t despair!

You are meant for the better things that come with salvation. (Tweet that!).
Things like refuge, great confidence, a strong and trustworthy Soul Anchor, eternal life in God’s inner sanctuary (aka heaven), and hope (v18-20).

God remembers how hard you work. He remembers the love and care you continually give to others. So keep on loving and caring and enduring in the ministry because no matter how challenging it gets, we have hope in Jesus. (Tweet that!).

Join the fun and party…link party! Linking up with Monday’s MusingsInspire Me Monday, Sharing His Beauty, and Hear it on Sunday Use it on Monday.

A Hard Week to be a Writer

Words have the ability to hurt us or uplift us, and this week felt like being shot down with an arrow. Every hope, every dream, and every step forward suddenly felt unfounded, ridiculous, and unworthy of being pursued.

It has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. Still, every, “What do you do?” has me shyly mutter that word while I hope they don’t press for details. Because even though my head knows that nobody but the Almighty validates me, and my spirit knows that He’s placed me exactly where He meant for me to be, my heart is easily wounded.

This week, being a writer was not easy. Something someone said – isn’t it always so? – has me crash landing on hard, crusty ground.

But other writers had words of encouragement at the ready. I learned in Social Psych that it takes about 5 positive actions to cancel 1 negative deed. So I’m thankful to other writers for their uplifting words this week (especially when I had none), and grateful for the faithful Father that knows exactly what I need when I need it.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday and Fellowship Fridays.

And here are the words of the wonderful writers that came at the perfect time. I gotta thank them somehow :-)

“You’re Doing Better than You Know” by Holley Gerth
“This One’s for the Wanna-be Hopeful” by Emily P. Freeman
“The words of God and Rihanna and Taylor Swift” by the Rusted Chain
“I Believed the Lie” by Mandy Scarr
“Later is a Dream Killer” by Lark and Bloom
“You Are Not a Failure” by Kristin Smith

God Will Restore You

I started watching this show, “Remedy,” about a chief of staff dad and his children, two daughters (a surgeon and a nurse) and a son, Griffin, working in the same hospital.

Griffin is the black sheep of the family. He dropped out of med school. He was a drug addict. Disappeared for 2 years without communication with his family. Blew back into town only to get mixed up with an exotic dancers club and murder. Cleared his name with his family’s intervention, but on the condition that he works in the hospital…as a porter. Aka an orderly. The “lowest” rung in the hospital ladder. They clean the hospital and shuttle patients around.

Griffin works alongside Bruno, who was a surgeon in Columbia. He came to America to build a better life for his family, but his credentials don’t transfer and he can only get a job as a porter.

Griffin and Bruno seems to have the same story, but how they got to where they are, is different. Griffin put himself there. He’s like the prodigal son. Through his own choices, he ended up in the pig sty. Bruno was put there. Yes, he chose to leave his life as a surgeon in Columbia to build a better life for his family. Why not build that life in Columbia? The show didn’t say, but alluded that it couldn’t be built in Columbia. He’s kinda like Job.

Their attitudes are different too. Griffin is a slacker. He disappears during shift and doesn’t follow the rules. He was given the chance to go back to med school. His dad is going to pay for it. His sister’s fiance is going to pull strings to get him in. But (although he wants it) acts like he doesn’t want it or care. Bruno keeps his nose clean, works the hardest, is kind to patients, respectful to others, and even makes Griffin realize the opportunity he’s throwing away.

Do you ever feel like Griffin or Bruno?

Do you ever feel like you were destined for something greater but you’re stuck in the lowest of the low? Or have you been on top of the world only to fall farther than where you started?

Maybe you feel like the prodigal son or like Job or like me, a combination of both. Through my own choices and through things I couldn’t have foreseen, I don’t feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. That I should have done this by now, or accomplished that by yesterday.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Through some choices and through things out of your control, you’re in a place you never thought you’d be. You may be at a low point in life. You may feel stuck. You may feel like a victim.

And perhaps you act like you don’t care when you really do (but it hurts to admit that). Maybe you lost some hope and living life que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. Or maybe you keep your nose clean, work hard, feet on the ground, grinding the 9 to 5. And getting nowhere.

It’s easy, then, to throw a pity party for ourselves. Or to get lost in our worries, even depression. It’s easy to focus on where we are, what we’ve lost, and the injustice or unfairness of it all.

But God has a promise for His children.

Jeremiah 30:17 God will restore you

God will restore you. Just as He restored Job to a place he’d never thought he’d be in…a better place of double portion, God will restore you. Just as He showed restoration for the prodigal son, God will restore you.

If you are wounded, God will restore you.

If you were rejected, God will restore you.

If you lost friendships, God will restore you.

If you feel unsought (and my single friends, I know how it feels to be unsought), God will restore you.

God will restore you and me to the place He intended for us to be in. It doesn’t matter if we made a thousand wrong choices. It doesn’t matter if people have kicked us and thrown us down. Our God is more powerful than choices and circumstances. (Tweet that!)

Have faith in our loving and almighty God. He will restore you.

Linking up today with The Single Life and Thriving Thursdays

Bible Study: John 3, By Faith

Like that saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” I don’t always know what to write in this blog, and I don’t want to just write anything. So I figured, for my benefit and hopefully your encouragement, I’ll let the Author do the talking. So I’m starting a new category, Bible Study, where I’ll dive a little deeper into a chapter of the Bible and see what God has to say to us.

Read: John 3 (NIV)

One of the things I remember clearly in college was that each Gospel writer had his own focus when writing his account of Jesus’ life, and John focused on faith. Even his very first words, the first verse for the first chapter, had to be taken in with faith, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Faith is crucial.

John chapter 3 has 2 events in it. The first is about Nicodemus, the second about John the Baptist. The first happens at night, the second during the day. The first with a pharisee, the second with a prophet. They seem unrelated, but they emphasize each other.

Nicodemus goes to Jesus and admits that Jesus is from God. Jesus calls him out right away.

Basically, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he’s not going to see heaven because he doesn’t have faith. But you don’t just tell a pharisee that. A pharisee is a Jewish leader. He doesn’t just obey the laws of Moses and God. He’s a representation of their faith and culture. But he doesn’t have faith?

No, not the kind Jesus is offering. To be around Jesus when He walked the earth!

“I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony” (v11). 

People want proof. They want evidence. They want to believe by seeing. And the pharisees, the Jews, the Gentiles, they had proof and evidence. They saw! Even Nicodemus saw (v2). But they still didn’t believe.

And without faith, there could be no reward. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (v16).

Jesus laid it out: believe in Me and you will be saved. Believe in Me and you will see the light. You will no longer live in darkness. You will live in truth and God will be glorified.

Then John jumps to the account of John the Baptist. He didn’t tell us Nicodemus’ response, and from a writer’s POV, that technique to allows readers to decide their own responses. Back to John the Baptist.

John and Jesus were baptizing people in the same body of water. Some of John’s followers and a Jew (certain manuscripts say Jews, plural) were arguing about baptism, especially because Jesus – the man John himself baptized – was baptizing more people than John.

John reminded them that Jesus is greater and the same things Jesus told Nicodemus.

John told them that they had all the proof they need, but they still didn’t believe. “He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony (v 32, compare with v11 above).

John told them Jesus was sent by God and told us about God in ways they should understand (remember Jesus spoke in parables and to the common man), but they still didn’t believe. Compare v31 with v12.

John reiterated that God sent Jesus because of His love for us. But we need to believe in Jesus, to put our faith in Jesus, in order to have eternal life with God in heaven. Compare v34-36 with v16-18

John the Gospel writer hammers the message in through the words of John the Baptist, who is clearly speaking about Jesus.

Just in case we missed it when we read John 3:16 that Jesus meant He was the Son that God sent, we read it again in the following John 3:36.

This verse right here:

John 3:16

is ever so popular, but it comes in the middle of this chapter about placing our faith in Jesus and examples of people who have a hard time doing just that.

Faith is not easy. It’s not easy to understand. It’s not easy to begin. It’s not easy to uphold.

Nicodemus, a pharisee, a leader of Israel, one who studied God for years, had a hard time understanding this faith that Jesus is presenting.

The followers of John, those who listened and repented and followed him for years, argued and didn’t figure out that Jesus is greater than John after John himself told them so.

It seems so simple, but everybody, from the devout follower of God to the common man, has a hard time when it comes to faith.

On one hand, we only need to believe in Jesus. On the other, we’re human and we fall short. But God loves us. He so loves us! And extends us His grace and His promise. Believe, live by the truth, and give God the glory (v21).

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us and sending us Jesus. Give us Your strength and conviction to live by the truth. To walk, talk, and live by faith in Jesus. All glory be unto You, Amen.


Linking up with Monday’s Musings

Despite Closed Doors

Yesterday, I shared what I learned from the conference speaker/pastor. That was from one sermon. The second is just as insightful and a blessing.

He focused on Thomas, commonly referred to as Doubting Thomas. Except he wasn’t the only one who doubted the resurrection of Jesus. All of the disciples did! In Mark 16:14, Jesus rebuked them for their “stubborn unbelief” (NLT).

Thomas is listed as the 8th disciple of Christ (Mark 3:13-19), and in John 20:19-29, we learn that Thomas saw Jesus 8 days after the other disciples saw Jesus (v26).

A little late to the party, isn’t he? But Thomas, stuck with the label of “doubt” and always listed somewhere in the middle of the list, received a greater revelation from God. In the Bible, the number 8 means new beginning.

In verse 28, Thomas exclaimed “My Lord and my God!”

When Jesus asked his disciples who they think He was, Peter said Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:15-16).

But Thomas called Jesus “God.” Not the son of God, but God!

Late to the party, doubting, and only always somewhere in the middle, Thomas received a greater revelation. A new revelation. Jesus isn’t just the Son of God. Jesus is God.

Sometimes, we are late to the party too. It seems like everybody else’s prayers have been answered. Everyone else is living out the promises of God. God’s plan has come to pass in their lives, while we are stuck waiting, always waiting, growing even more pregnant but never giving birth.

Like the disciples hiding behind locked doors because of fear (v19). We’ve seen Jesus. We know what He can do. But then our world was rocked. We were thrown by complications and opposition. And we’re not sure what to do.

Like Thomas who missed seeing Jesus the first time He appeared to the disciples (v24), who refused to believe without proof (v25), and got stuck – even 2000 years later – with a bad label. We seem to miss out on the blessings of God. We are late in receiving His revelations. We wonder when this prosperous and hopeful future (Jeremiah 29:11) will begin. We are stuck with labels we don’t want: doubter, fearful, loser, underachiever.

Like Jesus with scars on His hands, feet, and side (v27), we have been beaten and crucified. We’ve been put through the ringer and left with battle scars.

But Jesus is appearing despite the locked doors (John 29:19, 26). He is giving us peace and removing our doubts. He is replacing our labels with the Holy Spirit. He is giving us a greater revelation and making us new. We are left with those scars, but Jesus is taking away the pain. He is using our scars to help other people believe in Him!

Are you pregnant with the plans of God? You just know that God has a place for you in His plans. You just know He’s about to move mightily. You can just feel it. But you’ve been feeling it for months or years and nothing’s happened. Everything’s the same. You’re working so hard, but nothing. It’s like watering the desert with only a cup of water.

Or maybe you know God’s promises in His Word. You know the words He spoke to you through those dreams, those whispers, and those pastors, spiritual leaders, and friends. And you believe Him. You live in faith. Day in and day out. For months and years and a decade has gone by. And nothing. Like Abraham waiting for his son. You got a taste of His grand plans, then nothing more.

It’s like being single all your life. Well, all my life. Remembering the pastors that gave me words of prophecy about my husband and my family. Turning down requests to go to lunch or just out because I know that’s not what God wants for me. Because I don’t want to screw it up by taking matters into my own hands like Abraham and Sarah. Holding on to the promises He whispered to my heart. Day in and day out. Ignoring that annoying biological ticking while my friends are getting married or just got married. Last year, this year, and the next, I think there’s 6-7 couples getting married…wow.

But Jesus comes despite closed doors. My 2014 One Word is Ready. Whatever God has in store, I’m ready…well, He’s readying me. But I don’t have to go out and make His plans happen! He will make them happen. I simply need to believe. To stop my stubborn unbelief. To open my eyes and see that He’s moving in my life. To open my heart and let Him change the world through me, my scars, my life.

Closed doors don’t stop our God. Even greater is our testimony when we’re all out of options and lifelines and moves. When all we’ve got is Jesus. Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re believing God will do, don’t lose hope. If you feel like you’re always late to the party, don’t worry.

Believe, like Jesus commanded, and have peace! Greater is the revelation. Greater is the testimony. Greater the love story. Just believe.


Linking up with the The Single Life.

Pregnant With God’s Plans

The past weekend (Friday night and Saturday morning), I attended a pastors and church leaders revival by our conference (that’s denomination conference) hosted at our church. I was struck by the anointing on the speaker/pastor and I’m really still processing :-) but I’d love to share my experience with you.

He took us to Luke 1:26-38, the angel Gabriel told Mary she’s going to have a baby. The speaker threw my perspective off the rails by highlighting just how blessed and highly favored Mary was (v28). God liked her so much, He made her life complicated!

Mary wasn’t looking to do anything except get married. She wasn’t looking to be highly favored and blessed among the women. She wasn’t looking to get pregnant. She was engaged and then she was going to live the expected life.

But nope. God didn’t want that for her. God chose her, spoke into her life, and planted something in her that will glorify Him and change her world and the world around her.

But before that something can come into fruition (can be birthed), Mary had to go through a lot of complications. Pregnant outside of marriage, she would have been outcast and, if Joseph did not believe the angel, stoned to death. Then came the census. No room in the inns. Labor in a lowly (maybe dingy, dark, and dirty) manger. Then the king wants Jesus dead. Yikes, complicated.

And so likewise, God doesn’t want a regular expected life for you! God chose you and He is speaking into your life. He has planted something in you that will glorify Him and change your world and the world around you!

We’re pregnant with the plans of God :-) but before His wonderful plans can happen, we must go through some complications.

People might not believe us. We might feel isolated and alone, scared. But have no fear! God is always with us and will never forsake us. One way of showing His faithfulness is by giving us our own Josephs, people or even just one person who supports us, believes us, and protects us (in prayer or through friendship).

My One Word for 2014 is Ready, because God readied me for things He’s going to do. He spoke things into my life and heart. He whispered them at night. He reminded me through my tears. I’m not sure when I will see them come to pass, but they’re there. I can feel them. I am part of God’s plans.

The same is true for you! I know this because God promised it (Jeremiah 29:11).

Mary said two things when Gabriel appeared to her. First she asked, “How can this be since I know not a man?” (v34). Gabriel told her it will happen through the Holy Spirit because nothing is impossible to God (v35-36).

Then Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word” (v38).

Do you have the same responses when you hear from God, get a glimpse of His plans, or feel an assignment coming? I know I do.

First, I ask how. How can it be God? I’m not qualified.

Mary was a virgin and therefore not qualified to be pregnant. It’s just not possible. And yet with God, it is.

God doesn’t choose us because of our qualifications. What was that saying? God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Part of “Do not be afraid” (v30) is letting go of the fear that we don’t measure up. That we can’t possibly do what God is asking us to do because we’re not good enough, we don’t have the education, or we’re too this or too that.

The truth is…we’re not good enough! Not by God’s standards. We’ll never measure up. That’s the beauty of grace. We don’t have to be good enough. We don’t need the qualifications. Nothing is impossible to God.

He chose to do His will through us and the only way we can stop that is to turn our backs on Him. I pray we don’t do that. Instead, let’s respond like Mary did.

Let it be to me according to your word.

Whatever Your will is, God, do it. Here I am, I am Yours. Let Your will be done.

What are some things God is birthing in you? I pray for the strength and peace of Jesus through any complications in your spiritual pregnancy!


Linking up today with holleygerth.com and #w2wwordfilledwednesday