There’s an epidemic that runs rampant in our success-driven culture.

It respects no person and strikes even in ministry settings.

It’s called “burnout.”

There are a number of reasons for pastoral burnout and taking a look at a few of those reasons can help prevent it.

The Church Fuel team recently had the opportunity to hear some wisdom from Beth Bennett. Beth is the Director of Coaching at Ministry Ventures. With over 30 years of ministry experience, she has seen burnout happen firsthand and is passionate about helping leaders create systems to steward their lives, mission, teams, and resources in a healthy way.

The downward spiral toward the point of burnout isn’t simple at all, but we’d like to point out a few simple ways to avoid it. Beth Bennett pointed out a few unhealthy mindsets that will lead us all to burnout if we’re not careful.

1. Unhealthy Mindset #1: Ultimate responsibility rests with me.

In this mindset, church leaders strive, move in the flesh, become control freaks, and get closer and closer to burnout with each passing day. Free yourself by remembering that God isn’t asking us to carry the whole load. As Beth Bennett put it, “Ultimate responsibility doesn’t rest with us, but rests with God. Only He can change a heart.”

Ultimate responsibility doesn’t rest with us, but rests with God. Only He can change a heart. -Beth Bennett Click To Tweet

We beat burnout by humbly recognizing that we’re not the only act in town. There are other churches and ministries that God is using to do this Kingdom work with us. This frees us to delegate and let other people shine, which empowers them and prevents us from burning out.

2. Unhealthy Mindset #2: Constantly doing what doesn’t energize you.

There will always be some aspects of our jobs that we don’t like—even in ministry. That’s normal and a part of life. But continuing to always do what doesn’t energize you will lead to burnout.

Beth’s advice is to pay attention to what energizes you. What about your role brings you a lot of energy? What doesn’t energize you? Are you driven by pressure or a fear of delegation? Step away and evaluate. One of the top reasons for burnout is doing things that God never asked us to do. For example, think of a few tasks that constantly drain you. Is there a young leader you can equip to take over at least one of those tasks?

3. Unhealthy Mindset #3: Overworking is not sin.

Often, overworking is a coverup for fear. Overworking robs us of the time and attention it takes to properly care for ourselves and others. Some have called it “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Whatever you call it, overworking is an open invitation for burnout. If you work to keep everyone else in the church healthy, but you and your family are not, there’s a problem. You’re not loved for what you do, for how many people attend your church, or for what you have. Instead, work to keep burnout at bay by remembering that you are loved by God—period.

4. Unhealthy Mindset #4: Resistance to the inner journey.

Why would a pastor ever resist the “inner journey” of personal spiritual health? Beth says it’s the result of being “intoxicated with the wine of service.” Serving others is a wonderful thing that all Christians are called to, but too much service without taking time to develop your own spiritual health is a recipe for burnout.

The solution is to stop viewing life and ministry as a performance and take time to ponder what’s really going on inside. As Beth said, “Working for God is very different than working from God.” Don’t resist the day off. Don’t resist the quiet.

Beth recommended reading Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge for more help in this area.

For help evaluating whether these unhealthy mindsets are at play in your life, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I carrying that God hasn’t asked me to carry?
  • How am I robbing myself of self-care?
  • What energizes me the most?
  • Where am I resisting the “inner journey”?

Pastors often give a lot spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Step back and be honest about whether the amount of time you take to receive guidance from God and others matches the amount of energy you’re giving out.

You can beat burnout as you learn to walk in these principles. Commit to overcoming unhealthy mindsets, seek help, and create space in your life where healthy balance can exist.

Take a Next Step

The #1 barrier to church growth starts with you.

If the senior pastor, or church leaders, are not intentionally taking the time to get better, no one else will follow suit.

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