12 Signs of Ministry Fatigue That Lead to Burnout

I played every sport until the 9th grade. I was decent at most of them, but my dad’s stories about my uncle made me really love basketball. So, in 10th grade, I decided that being the biggest guy on the football team and being the running back wasn’t awesome, so I went straight basketball. 

During off-season basketball, we were anything but “off.” Our coach ran us into the ground. We ran and ran until fatigue took over and then we dropped. Then we had to get back up and run some more. By the way, this was Texas, so the only places hotter in August are Phoenix and hell. At least we got to run in the heat of the day though.

We ran a mile (under time) and 30 bleachers every other day. Every week, the time for the mile dropped by 15 seconds and the number of bleachers we ran went up by 10. The other days we did angle slides all over the gym for an hour and a half. I don’t miss it.

On the track, first, your legs turn to jelly and suddenly, you’re a baby horse on a frozen pond. Fatigue sets in and you think, “There’s no way I’m going to make this mile time.” Then you realize that you only have to hurt for 6 minutes and 45 seconds and then you can rest, so you pull it together, ignore the fact that your lungs need more air than they can hold, remember that girls are watching, and you push through it.

However, after week one, fatigue isn’t so much a problem because you realize that all you have to do is go for a short time and then you can rest.

Rest is what gives muscle time to rebuild stronger. Rests are what make musical notes interesting. Rest is the cure for burnout and ministry fatigue.

Want to know if you are near burnout? Here are 12 signs of ministry fatigue:

  1. Prayer and Bible reading are nonexistent in your personal life
  2. You hide from people you’re leading or work with
  3. You find yourself rehashing old content constantly instead of dreaming up new ideas to reach people
  4. Your spouse or trusted friends hate talking to you about your job
  5. You begin watching Netflix during office time, surfing social media (not working on social media), or playing around on your phone most of the day
  6. You find yourself using your time to do unrelated tasks or dreaming about other ministry jobs or a career outside the church
  7. You are easily annoyed by interruptions, even from those you are charged to lead or minister to
  8. When it comes to quality, you have developed a lazy eye
  9. You seldom leave your office even though your job is about relationships
  10. You are late to work and/or leave early because what’s the point? You’re not doing much anyway.
  11. You complain about your boss more than you pray for him/her
  12. You can’t remember the last time you admitted being wrong about something

I could spend a lot of time explaining what each one is in a lighthearted way, but I’d rather talk to you about the rest that can stave off ministry fatigue.

The best boss I’ve ever had heard a phrase once that changed his life. He passed it on to me in a staff meeting, and I’m going to pass it on to you:

Divert Daily, Withdraw Weekly, and Abandon Annually. I’m convinced this is the remedy for fatigue.

Avoid Fatigue by Diverting Daily

Diverting daily is what some may call “blowing off steam,” but it’s more than that. If you work with your hands all day, a great way to divert daily is to take some time at the end of the day reading a book. This may explain why some like to veg out in front of the television after a hard day.

If your brain has been working hard all day, it’s nice to turn it off for a second. However, a better solution would be to get exercise. Basically, do the opposite of what you do all day, especially if what you do all day really wears you out.

Avoid Fatigue by Withdrawing Weekly

Withdrawing weekly for the ministry leader means that there needs to be an actual Sabbath day in your week. I’m talking about a day where you don’t work on ministry stuff. Instead, you may work in your garage or home. You may clean the house and mow the yard, or take your kids to the park and turn off your cell phones.

Basically, make yourself unavailable. I’ve already blogged on the importance of this skill here.

Avoid Fatigue by Abandoning Annually

This is the hardest thing to do, so you’re going to have to be a little hard-headed and stubborn about it. You have to demand this of yourself. Just like off-season, the running ended and eventually the season started. Yet, after the season ended, we didn’t do the running again. We opened the gym and played after school and it was really fun!

Take your family and go on vacation for a week. My boss who told us this even said that he and his wife take a vacation without their teenage kids once a year in which they spend at least one day alone.

Your spiritual tank will get dry if you do not continually take care to keep filling it back up again. Just like a car, you have to STOP to fill up with gas…unless there has been a new advancement in filling up with gas while still moving?

Ministers have to stop and fill up. Fatigue is just fatigue if you stop and let your muscles rebuild. It becomes burnout when you fail to stop.

The church world seems to always need you, but we all need to remember this simple fact:

We don’t wear capes.

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  • Gail

    Good advice for all!

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  • […] from one job to the next. Instead, take steps to get yourself out of that fatigue (last week’s blog) and get back to the joy that you started your ministry […]

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