As we are in the midst of the busy season of Advent, and preparation for Christmas, churches are buzzing with activity and many tasks to do. It's a good time to consider Pastor Marty Cauley's reflections on how to avoid lay ministry burnout:
Avoiding Lay Ministry Burnout
By Marty Cauley in the Lewis Center for Church Leadership website
Have you known a church member who seemed fully engaged and invested in a congregation but suddenly walked away? What makes someone "flame out" unexpectedly? How do people find themselves in so far over their heads that they opt out all together? It's important for leaders to recognize an all-too-common pattern of engagement that leads to burnout.
People become active in church ministries for a variety of reasons. They may feel that God is calling them to some form of ministry or find themselves inspired to do more. But often, they do not have a clear sense of their gifts and calling. So they begin taking on responsibilities without prayerful discernment. They get busy doing everything. They fill up their calendars with tasks and responsibilities that may or may not be in sync with their divine calling. They are excited about "working for God" and throw themselves into every task. Because they are committed and enthusiastic, more and more requests are made of their time.
Before long, they become burdened. They become overwhelmed by ministry responsibilities and start to resent them. While they still feel the desire to "work for God," it becomes an obligation rather than a privilege. They start to grumble, but not too loudly, about all the things they have to do and the amount of time it is taking.
As burnout sets in, they begin to question why others aren't as committed as they are. Intentionally or unintentionally they start letting things slide and sometimes even sabotage the ministries under their care. They want to prove how valuable they are and how things would fall apart without them. Even if they maintain their ministry tasks, they are absent from worship and other spiritual formation activities. Their spiritual identity is based solely upon their responsibilities and no longer in their relationship with Christ.