Just recently I received a question from a young person in ministry asking me how I prevent myself burning out and how I keep on going.
What a great question!
Burnout is a real possibility for anyone who doesn’t watch out. Small church pastors are at great risk in this for a number of reasons. Small and rural church pastors have many demands from them. They rarely have a second staff person to share the load with and yet are asked to do a wide variety of things. Some of the days just don’t have enough hours to accomplish all that is expected.
So why might someone face burnout? Sometimes it’s as simple as not having enough sleep or taking time for a sabbath rest. Sometimes it may be because you are not sure you are serving where God wants you. Or maybe you are doing things out of your gifting abilities or just doing way too much.
Are their solutions? Can we prevent burnout? Here are some things I have learned that have helped me.
One, get enough sleep. For me, I need 8 hours of sleep. That means I sometimes have to go to be earlier than I would like when I know I have early appointments.
Two, take a sabbath. Take a regular day off. Don’t plan anything else on that day. Take time to relax. Enjoy some recreation. Go on a date. Read a book just for fun.
Three, take time to reaffirm for yourself that you are serving as pastor where you should be serving. It’s good to occasionally take time with God on this question so you are serving with confidence that you are where you should be.
Four, know your gifts and abilities and evaluate if you are doing too many things that are not in your “sweet spot” of serving out of your best. Sometimes we have to do things that are not easy of comfortable for us. We just have to. And sometimes we can learn new skills. Other times we have to be honest and say “no” to certain expectations because these only drain us and tire us out. Say no where you can, delegate where you can.
We are not good at everything. And there are things we just don’t enjoy. In another church I was expected to do services at the Seniors Lodge. I always had to force myself to do it and it always turned out alright, but I am so glad that is not an expectation of me in my present church.
Just a caution: If you are getting close to burnout, ask for help. Ask for a break. Talk to an authority or to a pastor friend to find your way through.
May you find your way through, not burning out, but enjoying the journey!