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The burnout season

The burnout season

With Facebook ablaze with New Year’s resolutions, Susan Brown Snook wonders in her blog A Good and Joyful Thing where everyone gets the energy:

…there are times when all clergy and lay church leaders fall into exhaustion, when we don’t have the energy to think ahead, when one more hospital visit, meeting, or liturgy feels like it might just drive us over the edge. Not to mention having zero energy left over for getting out into the community and reaching new people in new ways, where they are rather than where the church is. I believe in doing these things! But how do I do them when I am exhausted?

I have to add that it’s not just clergy who find themselves burned out. I had a ten-year career in public accounting, and I got plenty burned out then, too. I have lots of parishioners who work just as hard as I do, and some who work harder for lower pay. We clergy shouldn’t fall into a poor-me trap of thinking we are uniquely put-upon. Think about public school teachers if you want to consider a noble, service-oriented, hardworking, and vastly underpaid profession! But I guess I somehow believed when I embarked upon this career that serving Jesus would make me more joyful, less stressful than serving my accounting clients was. And it is, most of the time. But then there come those times of exhaustion.

And oh yes – those times hit Jesus, too. Witness the gospel stories of Jesus retiring to a secluded place to pray, and being followed by the crowds. He seemed to react the same way I do – sighing and then pleasantly doing what the crowds required. I’m not much like Jesus, most of the time – but I certainly identify with him in the stories where he is worn-out and stressed.

So that’s the question, Gentle Reader. How do we replenish ourselves in times like this? How do we keep on leading our congregations in accomplishing Christ’s mission – that mission we have devoted our professional lives to, in which we passionately believe – when we feel like empty, burned-out vessels, with very little left to give? Where do we find the spiritual reserves to do that joyful, life-transforming mission that we are called to do?


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Genie Carr

Maybe this is heresy, but, speaking as a layperson and member of a congregation with five very busy clergy people, I’d say one answer to that (probably rhetorical) question is to let parishioners KNOW you’re a bit tired. Some won’t like it, but most understand that ordained people are people too. Of course, the clergy have to realize that first, and take care of themselves as well as taking care of us. We can handle it.

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