In recent news, Pete Wilson resigned from Cross Point Church in Tennessee. Wilson said he was leading on empty and that he was broken, so it was in the church’s best interest that he resign. Since this story came out earlier in the week, I have seen a few other articles talking about burn out.
Burn out. We all get burnt out from time to time, but sometimes there comes a point when we are burnt out beyond what a vacation or few days away will repair. Ministry is a tough gig. Having worked in a few different career areas before coming into ministry, I can truly say that being in ministry is the hardest job I have ever had, but it is the job that I love the most. I’ve gotten to the burn out stage in ministry. However, I was able to take some time and refresh and coming bouncing back in with plenty of energy. My burn out has been more so since starting my Master’s Degree classes.
I am in the homestretch of my Master’s Degree. I am currently working on my Capstone project (think thesis type project) at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. In December, I will walk across the stage and receive my diploma after working hard for 2 years. I cannot wait. This journey has not been easy on me or my husband. I am so grateful and thankful for the support system that I have, which has enabled me to pursue this degree.
One of the nice things about getting a graduated degree at Wesley Sem at IWU is that you have an option to do everything online, which is what I have done with the exception of 2 elective classes I chose to do as a week-long intensive. There are still deadlines to meet, but for the most part, the work gets done as it fits my schedule. At the very beginning of starting this degree, all of us starting the program gathered on campus in Marion, IN in August 2014. We sat in lectures about writing at a seminary level and the expectations of us. It was very overwhelming. On our last morning, Dr. Lenny Luchetti did morning worship with us where he talked about burn out and avoiding it.
Dr. Luchetti cited an August 2010 New York Times article that said, “The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could. Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.” Those of us in ministry can see how this is true. We are constantly giving and giving and giving of ourselves until we are depleted. Too many of us in ministry are working without taking a break. Many don’t take vacations for years, nor do they observe a Sabbath.
Dr. Luchetti talked to us, as we started our Seminary journey, about building a SHED to help avoid burnout. Dr. Luchetti shared this slide with us when talking about building our SHED:
This is something that has stuck with me over my Seminary journey. I try to make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep. When I don’t, it isn’t pretty and I need supersized Cokes to get me through the day. I have a number of hobbies, which include gardening, canning (fruits, veggies, jams, sauces, etc.), sewing, and scrapbooking to name a few. I have definitely become more into exercising over the last 2 years, but part of that is due to my increased involvement with Team RWB. Since starting seminary, I have run 6 half marathons and a number of smaller races such as 5K, 10K, 7K, 14K, 1 Mile, etc. I have also, more recently, done an obstacle course race called The Rugged Maniac (this was 2.5 weeks ago and my body is still recovering). When I am consistently exercising and working out, my body craves healthier food, so I am much better shape and my weight gets down. When I’m not exercising consistently or eating well, I gain weight, which makes things harder when I get back to working out regularly. Finally, having a daily devotional is probably the thing I struggle with most. However, I am SO grateful for wonderful resources like She Reads Truth that has the hard copy devotionals you can purchase, but for those who are more tech savvy, they have a free app where you can purchase the devotional within the app. I can wake up in the morning and read my devo right on my phone. In the app, they include the Scriptures, which keeps me from disturbing my husband if he’s still sleeping when I do this.
In addition to building a SHED, I’ve more recently been reminded that I still need to rest and observe a Sabbath. Those of us who work in ministry, specifically within the church, don’t get to have Sundays as a Sabbath like most people. While attending the CM Connect Conference in March, when I attended a session about avoiding burn out with Brent & Cailey Dumler. Brent hit home about resting and observing the Sabbath. Observing the Sabbath is part of the Big Ten (aka The Ten Commandments). God and Jesus, both, gave us examples of resting. God spoke the world into existence in 6 days and then rested on the 7th. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he would often escape in the busiest of times to rest and pray. If they are giving us these examples AND it’s one of the commandments, shouldn’t we be doing that too? Yes! The answer is yes.
I have been so guilty of not observing a Sabbath day since starting in ministry. I would answer emails at all hours of the day/night, communicate via text message at any given time, acting on social media for the church, etc. Now, I have created a boundary for myself. I will not answer emails, phone calls, text messages, social media, etc. on Fridays. I need that day to rest and rejuvenate. That is the day where I will meet friends for lunch, take myself to a movie while my husband is working, and then have a date night with my husband (which usually consists of a swim workout at our local YMCA). I refuse to do school work on Fridays. I only read books for pleasure, not school books, on Fridays. Fridays are my Sabbath day.
Creating boundaries are also key to helping avoid burn out. Boundaries are not only good for you, but they are good for those you are serving. When I left Hyde Park Community UMC last year, I remember having a conversation with my pastor, Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns, in regards to boundaries. She, as well as other co-workers, knew how hard I worked and how I didn’t really take a day for myself to rest. I had put in many more hours than I got paid for as a part-time employee, chalking it up to the fact that in ministry, that’s just what we do. Cathy recommended to me that I keep a log of my hours and NOT work more than I get paid for. She told me that she and her husband, Rev. Doug Johns, make sure that they keep Fridays as their Sabbath day. They do nothing ministry related on Fridays. This is a conversation that I have recalled so many times since I left Hyde Park.
Brent & Cailey also recommended reading as a way of avoiding burn out. Not only is reading good for your ministry, but it is good for refueling. Three books they recommended are From Hectic to Healthy: The Journey of a Balanced Life, Refuel: An Uncomplicated Guide to Connecting with God, and Replenish: Leading With a Healthy Soul. All of these are available on Amazon. I have to admit that I did purchase these, but I have yet to read them because of all the reading I do for school (catching up on books like this is one of the things I am most looking forward to when I finish with my Capstone in a few weeks).
All of these things can help in avoiding burn out, but the biggest thing is relying on God. We need to spend time in prayer. We need to rest. We need to take care of ourselves, and there’s nothing selfish about that – in fact, I believe that is quite the opposite. When we take time to create boundaries and take care of ourselves, we are able to better lead those we serve. Take care of you! Stay healthy, stay well.
***feature photo courtesy of Mind Yummy blog***