What to Do When Church is Killing Me
Church is killing me. It started out that my husband, Ben, was serving with five or six other people several times a month on the soundboard. That has since dwindled to two people who serve one week a month. The rest of the time Ben is alone. He has had one Sunday off in the last six months.
I work alone on Wednesday night soundboard (a two-person job) and have for the last six months or so.
We have been begging for help for months.
In order to get us some help, my pastor made it mandatory for everyone who serves on the worship team to help on soundboard rotationally. That was over two months ago, and not a single person has even agreed to be trained. The pastor hasn’t followed up on it, let alone enforced it.
I used to read my Bible for 30 minutes every day, and I know my husband spent daily time in the Word as well. Between practices, services, and all special events we practically live at our church and don’t have time as a family anymore … much less the time or energy for spiritual things.
Yet the church keeps asking for more with no end in sight.
So, the question stands, do I continue to fight the good fight, do I set down some ground rules to make a change, or do I simply leave and find a new church with a servant’s heart?
Waiting for your input,
In today’s culture, people just aren’t volunteering in the church anymore. We’re all “busy,” and serving just isn’t a priority. So many figure that someone else will help out … and after a while, no one is left.
When a church finds someone who is willing to volunteer, they oftentimes over-utilize them, asking for more and more until the once-excited servant is completely burned out and exhausted. Obviously, you were pushed and pushed, and now you’re experiencing total burnout.
First, I see no need for you to leave your church. Since you have so many ties, it would be a shame to lose those friends and relationships and start over again in a new place.
SO LET ME SHARE SOME THOUGHTS ON HOW TO GET WELL FROM CHURCH BURN OUT.
1. TAKE SOME NOURISHMENT AND THEN ENJOY A LONG NAP.
After Elijah defeated Jezebel’s 400 prophets of Baal, the wicked Queen declared that she would kill Elijah that very day (1 Kings 18). Elijah took off running. He ran and he ran until he came to Beersheba in southern Israel. After running scores of miles, he reached the mountain of Horeb in southern Judah; he felt exhausted and burned out.
Presently an angel arrived, awakened him, and gave him food to eat. He was still burned out and hurting, so after falling asleep a second time, the angel reappeared and gave him nourishment. As he recovered, God reengaged Elijah in ministry.
Just recently, forty master level students at MIT participated in a research project that kept them awake for 48 hours. They then were given EEG scans and discovered that a student kept awake for 48 hours has basically the same brain scan as a schizophrenic.
Have a good meal and go to sleep … in other words, take time to care for your physical needs. You can’t begin to recover mentally, emotionally, or spiritually until you’ve recovered physically. That takes time. Make it a priority.
2. SET BOUNDARIES
Jesus set boundaries on his ministerial activities. He knew when it was time to draw away from the crowds to pray and rest and recover from the rigors of ministry.
Give your pastor at least one more month to make a transition to new workers. But tell him that after one month, you plan to retire and take time to heal and get well. Ultimately, it is not your responsibility to staff every church ministry with volunteers, including your chosen ministry. That is the pastor’s job.
It’s like leaving your job at work. You give two to four weeks notice so the company can make plans for the transition, and then you leave. Set a boundary which says you will not work at the soundboard until you recover from burnout.
3. GO TO A CHURCH HOSPITAL AND SIT ON THE BACK ROW.
Recognize that you are wounded and spiritually exhausted. It’s time to go to a church hospital behind the lines and recover.
I have dealt with many people over the years who come to our church after being burned out in another church.
My advice is always the same. Sit back and just enjoy your worship and church experience. It may take a while, but there comes a time when you can reengage in ministry. Nevertheless, take your time. So take a break and remember not to reengage too soon. There’s plenty of ministry for you in the days ahead.
And often, after healing and resting, you’ll be able to return to your church with strength.
4. CONSTANTLY MONITOR YOUR SPIRITUAL, MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, AND PHYSICAL GAUGES.
Most burned out churchgoers are greatly overextended in one or more of these four areas. And frankly, if you overextend in any of them it’s no wonder that you are burned out. It’s okay to say “No” in order to keep your life in balance.
Jonah burned out. God told him to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent. Jonah wanted Israel’s greatest enemy to be destroyed. He was mentally confused about God’s intentions. After spending three days and nights inside a great fish he obeyed, went to Nineveh, and the whole city repented and turned to Jehovah.
But when Nineveh repented, Jonah got angry at God. Instead of rejoicing that an entire city came to Jehovah, he got angry and complained that God was a hard task master (Matthew 25:24-26).
God often becomes a hard task master when we burn out … but when we say “No” and heal, we’re better able to see His plans for us.
5. REFUSE TO OVEREXTEND YOURSELF.
David wrote Psalm 131: “O, Lord my eyes are not proud. I do not occupy myself with things too high and mighty for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child that is quieted at its mother’s breast, like a child that is quieted is my soul.”
He simply stopped. Period.
In this situation, I’m always reminded of Arnold Palmer’s Pennzoil tractor. In a TV commercial he stood beside his tractor and declared that it was over 80 years old, thanks to regular maintenance with Pennzoil.
Instead of burning out after several short years of ministry, let’s change the oil regularly and enjoy a long, profitable and satisfying ministry for many years to come.
So Kirsten, learn a lesson for next time. Before re-engaging in service, check to see that your spiritual, mental physical, and emotional gauges are well within the monitoring lines for health and balance. Keep the machine well oiled.
Please let me know how things are coming along,