Working in ministry can be incredibly difficult. Often, ministry workers give to everyone but themselves and end up feeling burned out, exhausted, and discouraged. Your work matters, but so do you. Protect yourself from burnout in ministry by following these four strategies below.
1. Check Your Motivation
If you’re experiencing burnout, it’s a good idea to check your priorities. It can be very easy to slide into people-pleasing or working on projects that you don’t necessarily need to do.
As a Christian in ministry, you want to love and serve others. However, notice that Jesus didn’t say serving others was the greatest commandment. In the book of Matthew, He said the greatest commandment was to love God with all of yourself.
Part of loving God well is taking care of your own body. God is not a slave driver – over and over in Scripture, He calls us to rest and lean on His strength. If you’re not taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually, you won’t have the resources to love others well.
2. Take Care of Your Body
Taking care of yourself starts with getting adequate nutrition and rest. Eating healthy and varied foods will improve your brain and emotional health, among other things. God made your body, and it’s important to Him. It’s essential to care for yourself physically if your goal is to be there for others.
Other restorative activities include moving your body and spending time in nature. Giving time to hobbies, spending time with life-giving friends, and taking a Sabbath rest are all ways you can recharge and nourish yourself.
Variety is an integral part of taking care of yourself. For instance, athletes can risk overtraining themselves by working too hard on a single sport. In contrast, many successful college athletes played different sports as children. Varied training is beneficial for learning new skills, getting a clear vision of what you want, and protecting yourself from burnout.
Many Christians worry that taking care of their bodies is selfish, and instead, they should focus entirely on their souls. However, your body and soul are so connected that neglecting one will always adversely affect the other.
Your body is not simply a means to an end. It is a gift from God and one He treasures. Caring for it is incredibly biblical and honors His love for you. You can’t love others well if you don’t first learn to accept Christ’s love for you.
3. Talk to a Therapist or Life-Coach
We can all use help sorting through our emotions and circumstances. If you want to minister to others, it’s a good idea to invest in understanding yourself along the way.
Talking to a licensed therapist can help you set healthy life goals and identify personal weaknesses that could harm you or others. Because the world is broken, every person has experienced trauma in some form – whether that’s physical, mental, or spiritual.
Finding healing from inner pain is much easier with help and an outside perspective. You may even discover that some of the things you thought were normal are keeping you from trusting God and loving yourself and others well.
Jesus came to give us abundant life by reconciling us to God. However, His promises don’t end there. New life means renewal every day, and He wants to renew and free you through His Spirit and His people.
You may feel that looking for help outside of God means you don’t trust His provision for your life. On the contrary; reaching out for help is one of the most faithful steps you can take to follow Him well. As it says in Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory.”
4. Delegate Tasks
Speaking of abundant counselors, in the book of Exodus, you can read the story of how Moses learned to delegate some of his work while leading the Israelites. Delegation is an essential leadership tool that can help you prioritize work tasks. Without it, you risk physical and emotional burnout.
You can’t do everything on your own, nor should you try to. Ultimately, running the world is God’s job! Working with others has incredible power, and it’s something you should incorporate into your ministry. The more people who are helping you, the more gifts, thoughts, and strength you’ll have directed to a particular problem.
Delegating authority is not the same thing as abdicating responsibility. Choose your helpers wisely, and be careful not to overburden them to clear your own schedule.
In many ways, work-life balance is an illusion. As soon as you reach it, it evaporates and then appears again, tantalizingly far off in the distance. While achieving a perfect work-life balance is impossible, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself from burnout.
Follow these four strategies to nourish your soul so you can love God and others well. Don’t worry about everything being perfect – just take one small step toward health at a time.